The diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer we’ve been waiting for may be on its way. If preliminary results are correct, there may be a 3-cent blood or urine test usable in routine screening that will catch pancreatic cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable. And that will be thanks to a 15-year old Maryland high school freshman.
Jack Andraka of Crownsville won the first prize of $75,000 in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest pre-college science research competition, or the “Olympics of science fairs,” as he calls it. After nearly 200 rejections, his idea sparked the interest of Dr. Anirban Maitra of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, with whom Jack worked on the project.
The 5-minute test involves dipstick technology, a paper strip coated with antibodies that react only when they detect biomarkers of cancer, most notably pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. The test must be proven in clinical trials before it can be approved for widespread use. It is hoped to be available within the next ten years.
Jack was inspired to work on pancreatic cancer after the loss of his uncle to the disease. Jack will put his May 18th winnings of over $100,000 (he won other awards in addition to the first prize) towards his college education.
With 44,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year, and survival rates in the single digits, this new test will be a game-changer. And it can’t come soon enough. Good work, Jack!