Someday, when your pancreatic cancer test becomes a lot cheaper than it is today, you may have a 15-year-old high school student to thank.
Jack Andraka, a high school freshman from Crownsville, Md., beat more than 1,500 students from 70 countries to win the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for developing a pancreatic cancer test that costs as little as three cents and works within five minutes.
His invention is actually a sensor made of paper.
It takes advantage of the fact that when you have pancreatic cancer, certain proteins in your blood become elevated. The paper is used as a dip-stick sensor in blood and urine tests to detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage.
What inspired Andraka to pursue this line of research was the death of his uncle ten months ago.
“I knew that I really wanted to do something for the field, so I started doing my own research into diagnostic tests,” he told the Washington Post.
This year, the National Cancer Institute estimates that about 44,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Science News reports; because of a lack of a quick, cheap diagnostic test, the disease tends to be caught late, making the survival rate low.
“What I really want to do with this is get it into regular screenings, so that every single person can have it and make sure they’re safe,” Andraka told the Post. “This can detect it before the cancer becomes invasive, so it can really help people survive.”
Andraka told Marketplace he is filing a patent for the technology, and two biotechnology firms have come knocking on his door.
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photo: Courtesy of ISEF