Teen crafts tool for early cancer detection

2013-02-28 16:17

(Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Long Beach, California – Jack Andraka catapulted from being a typical US teenager unaware of the pancreas to one with a cheap way to detect cancer in the organ before it turns deadly.

"Through the internet, anything is possible," Andraka said while telling the story of his screening breakthrough at a prestigious TED Conference in Southern California on Wednesday.

"There is so much more to it than posting duck-face pictures of yourself online," he continued, sucking in his cheeks and pushing out his lips to playfully underscore his point.

"If a 15-year-old who didn't know what a pancreas was could figure out a way to detect pancreatic cancer, imagine what you could do."

Andraka, who turned 16 in January, recounted how three years ago he began scouring the internet for information about pancreatic cancer after it killed a cherished family friend.

He told of being shocked to learn that the cancer was typically found too late to save people. On top of that, the test used to screen for the illness was 60 years old, he said.

"That is older than my dad," Andraka quipped. "More important, it is expensive, inaccurate, and your doctor would have to be ridiculously suspicious that you had the cancer to give you this test."

He figured what was needed was a test that was inexpensive, fast, simple and sensitive.

"Undeterred due to my teenage optimism, I went online to a teenager's two best friends: Google and Wikipedia," Andraka said.

What he found was there were thousands of proteins that could be detected in the blood of people with pancreatic cancer, and he hunted for one that could serve as an early flag for the illness.

"Finally, on the 4 000th try when I was losing my sanity, I found the protein," Andraka said.

The revelation came in what he described as an unlikely place, a high school biology class he referred to as an "absolute stifler of innovation."

"I was sneakily reading this nanotubes article under my desk while we were supposed to be paying attention to antibodies," Andraka recalled.

"Suddenly it hit me that I could combine what I was reading with what I was supposed to be thinking about."

He described a recipe for making paper sensors to detect the protein mesothelin in blood that is "about as simple as making chocolate chip cookies, which I love."

The test costs three cents, takes minutes, and appears to be 100% accurate, according to his TED Talk.

Andraka said he sent out 200 requests to scientists for lab space to continue his work, only to be rejected by all but Johns Hopkins University where he was fiercely grilled before being taken in.

He commenced to fix holes he discovered in his "once brilliant procedure" and went on to be awarded the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair grand prize.

Andraka described his approach as having the potential to be tailored to screen for other forms of cancer as well as heart disease or HIV/AIDS.

He said he is currently working on "something the size of a cube of sugar" that could "look through your skin" and study blood or signs of almost any disease. The cost? An estimated five dollars.

Read more on:    health  |  research
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
23 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

DA wants to empower fishing communities - Zille

DA leader Helen Zille says the party has a plan for harbours and small-scale fishing communities.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 10:15 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS approaching Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.