A Teenager’s Answer to Pancreatic Cancer

This post has been  submitted by      Aastha Paliwal

What did you do as a hobby when you were 15?

No matter how precocious you were, odds are that you were not spending your spare time trying to develop a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer -28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than the current ones. Did you ever think of converting any of your  “absurd idea”  into a reality?

But, Jack Andraka,  a 15 year old toddler of Crownsville,winner of  Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, developed  a revolutionary way to diagnose pancreatic cancer. Now thats impressive! Andraka’s dip-stick sensor can test urine or blood for mesothelin, a biomarker prominent in pancreatic cancer including a few other types. The paper strip changes conductivity based on the quantitative estimation of the protein in the blood. It can, Andraka claims, detect the cancer even before it becomes invasive. Poor diagnosis has always been a backdrop when it comes to medicines but. thanks to “young scientists” like Andraka , we can hope that things are on the verge of change.

You might wonder how an idea which escaped cancer researchers at institutes worldwide came to his mind. The eureka moment was a boring class on antibodies wherein he was reading secretly a book on nanotubes to avoid falling asleep. The two concepts amalgamated in Andraka’s head and he realised that he could use carbon nanotubes which is -or as he likes to call it, the “superhero” of the material science- to detect cancer. His interest in cancer was born due to the death of a family friend from pancreatic cancer, an incident which inspired him to know it all and the the research hours followed.

After 199 rejections by various university professors and seven months, Dr. Anirban Maitra, Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, gave him the chance he was striving for. It was here that the intriguing kid developed into a famed inventor.

Jack at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Jack at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

Jack’s case teaches us three things. To always believe in ourselves, to not be discouraged by rejections or failure and to have a cross-disciplinary approach to studying science. Pretty inspiring, isn’t it??? I hope one day someone feels as excited as feel now, while writing or reading about my breakthrough researches.

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