There has to be a better way! This story is so cool it breaks the boundaries of coolness.

This is so cool that it may need its own category.  This story combines human ingenuity, youthful motivation, and the free market.

Meet Jack Andraka, Foe of Pancreatic Cancer.

From Smithsonian:

Jack Andraka, the Teen Prodigy of Pancreatic Cancer

A high school sophomore won the youth achievement Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for inventing a new method to detect a lethal cancer


Go there to read the story.

In a nutshell, a teenage boy lost a friend to pancreatic cancer.  He started learning about the cancer that robbed him of his friend.  He found out that most of the time pancreatic cancer was diagnosed very late, too late, and that the tests were way out of date.

He, as a sophomore in high school, invented a new test.

The test needs a drop of blood, it is 400 times more sensitive than existing tests, it costs 3 pennies. It is 100% accurate.

Jack, 15 years old, came up with this test by spending only a few months going after school to a lab a Johns Hopkins and working sometimes until after 2 a.m.

Why have we abdicated our ingenuity and spirit to the employees of large corporations?

Long live the inventor and the entrepreneur.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I lost my grandmother, holding her in my 17-year old arms as she went to her particular judgement, to this scourge 40 years ago on the 30th of June just passed. It’s a terrible terrible cancer; the survival rate, since it is usually discovered so late, is pitiful.

    Why have we abdicated our spirit to the corporations? His test costs pennies, discovers the disease long before current tests, when the survival rate may be higher. Boy, what’s not to like.

    But, that certainly digs into the profits of the corporations producing their poisons that cost thousands of dollars per treatment for tens of dollars of chemicals to no good effect in the end, not to mention the piles of money to the contract research organizations, hospitals, doctors, lawyers, government drones in the FDA (let’s see how long it takes, if ever, for his protocol and test to be approved for human use), etc ad nauseam.

    Sickness is a big business. It’s a balancing act to see how sick you can let people be so they are dependent on the system to provide relief and make sure the money keeps rolling in. In the end, everyone dies (thank you Dr. House), profits are maintained, and no one is the wiser.

    Cynical? Like Obamacare?

  2. my kidz mom says:

    My mom suffered this evil cancer. It is encouraging to hear Jack’s story; then, discouraging to hear what has to say:

    “What needs to be done before this test is available to everyone?
    •Jack will need to partner with companies that are interested in taking his discoveries forward for more testing and able to make the test commercially available.
    •Studies with a much larger number of samples, and ultimately a forward-looking study on individuals at risk for developing pancreatic cancer, are required before this test could be considered ready to use for the diagnosis of cancer. It will take several years and a lot of resources before these studies can be accomplished…”

  3. Johnno says:

    Read about this awhile back, there’s even a video interview of him i believe. Great story. however teh young man better watch out, the vultures will be upon him claiming infringements of patents, possibly patents that work just as well but were kept hidden because it’s more profitable not to allow it and because its under government scrutiny because it allows too many people to live and the global NWO is all about reducing the amount of human beings on the planet to something they can manage.

  4. CGPearson says:

    I’m not so sure that we’ve lost our ingenuity, but we just don’t have a functional patent system that allows for innovation to flourish. Anytime someone develops a better, cheaper, faster way to do something, there’s a greedy patent-holder ready to pounce and sue the pants off of them.

  5. yatzer says:

    If the test were easily availabe, would it be possible to cure pancreatic cancer if detected early enough, or would it just mean a longer period of knowing one had a terminal illness?

  6. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    This is the point at which we cue the recording of Dwight David Eisenhower’s Farewell address, the one famous for his comments about the military-industrial complex. He makes some other very interesting and important points, too. I use it every year in my US history class, and even in the years I have taught biology.

  7. netokor says:

    He didn’t invent that! Somebody else made it happen!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. iPadre says:

    I saw this on Fox News. It’s the size of an iPhone. I hope some other kid does the same for other tests. Like the prostate biopsy I had. Some of these tests are so invasive. Maybe they will make one to cure cancer.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    Only in contemporary America could something so good turn into something so lousy.

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    “It is 100% accurate.”

    While this is a heart-warming story, no doubt, it isn’t correct science at this stage to say the test is 100% accurate – i.e., it never fails. They haven’t done nearly enough studies to make that STATISTICAL reliability measurement. If the test were 100% accurate, that would mean he would have, also, discovered something really unique to this cancer which could be used to target it, exclusively. This, I doubt. It is still a major breakthrough, however.

    The Chicken

  11. MrTipsNZ says:

    I am a biomedical scientist with 15 years post-PhD experience in identifying and designing new diagnostic tests. Two of my family have died from pancreatic cancer. The reality of the situation is this:

    – the boy did not come up with the test, he was guided
    – the test target, mesothelin, is not that good at detecting pancreatic cancer or any other cancer (
    – He is only 15. What he has done is pretty darn impressive for a 15 year old and worthy of the prize he attained
    – the media got an inch and ran a mile
    – any test takes years, and thousands of patient samples, to verify its use. You would be shocked at how many tests these days are ordered and are of little value because they were “rushed” into use.
    An analogy: our liturgy wasn’t built in a day, and how much more important is that?

    To paraphrase: get to confession.

  12. Giuseppe says:

    Great story. Love that he is not hemmed in by artificial intellectual boundaries (e.g. merging chemistry, biology, immunology, etc.). Bravo, Jack! Bravo!

    I don’t view stories like this as epitomizing the downfall of America. People are right that this test needs to be tested and its data reproduced. Then it needs to be manufactured, and there needs to be quality control standards, etc.

    Approval will not be terribly long. There really is no human experimentation done in this study; it’s a lab test. (In other words, nothing is ever administered to a patient, which really does require rigorous animal testing before FDA approval, although, since to a very successful AIDS lobby in the 80s, the FDA has relaxed its requirements for treatment for diseases which have been heretofore untreatable.)

    It’s a fairly simple question: how accurate is it in detecting people already diagnosed with cancer? (Specificity) And then, in those who do not have cancer, how often does a negative test correspond with no-cancer? (Sensitivity) Finally, in a population with a very low incidence of pancreatic cancer, does the number of false-positives result in too many people getting preliminary diagnoses of cancer to outweigh the benefits in working up everyone with a positive result? (positive predictive value)

    I also think 5-10 years is overkill, and I suspect it will be on the market within 2 years. If it were on the market beforehand, I would be worried that it was not properly tested, but rather that it was put on there because of publicity and pressure.

    Re. whether this can cause improvement in life-span in those with cancer. That is anyone’s guess. The hope is that early detection and early removal of the pancreas will improve lifespan (mortality) and quality of life (morbidity).

    Brian Boyle, my condolences to you at the loss of your grandmother.

  13. Giuseppe says:

    Thanks for that update MrTipsNZ. The data in that study correlating mesothelin with cancer is terrible. Is that also shown in other studies?

  14. StJude says:

    My grandpa died of this horrible cancer.

    He use to say cancer will never be cured.. too much money made by it.

  15. Giuseppe says:

    Sorry to hear of this StJude. Did he mean that cancer will never be cured because (1) too much money is made by it re. doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, etc.? Or did he mean that (2) cancer will never be cured because the industrialization and chemicalization of America and western society in the past 100 years has introduced carcinogens at such an alarming rate that corporations will never submit to the regulations mandating the elimination of such chemicals.
    They are very different ominous forebodings. I suspect he meant the former, but the health care industry is nothing compared to the American chemical industry and its spread into businesses everywhere and sustained by the willingness of consumers to choose comfort and ease over safety.
    I’d be my money that Pfizer will be far less likely to play a role in your death than Monsanto.

  16. Bea says:

    WOW on the young man’s dedication and God-given genius.

    God gives us the means.
    We only discover those means.
    Man’s greed thwarts His Gifts to us.

    StJude: I agree with your grandfather’s insight. Condolences to you and the others who had lost loved ones.

    Giuseppe: whether through additives in food or medical profiteering , the greed is the same.
    These “profiteers” will have much to answer for not just simple theft but the theft of the lives of so many loved ones.

    A past co-worker’s husband died of this also, as did another co-worker who was the one that introduced my husband and me (46 years, 5 months and 5 days ago).

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    Thanks, MrTipsNZ.

    I’ll bet the guy has fairly wealthy parents. I’ve seen this phenomenon, before. Poor people, no matter how talented, just simply do not get these chances to do research. Well-off guy gets access to laboratory, is coached by senior researcher, wins a prize. While the research is impressive, the media tends to oversimplify the relationships in the story.

    Math is a much more pure field when using the word genius.

    The Chicken

  18. MrTipsNZ says:

    Don’t get me wrong, the lad is obviously talented and if my 15yr old did what he did, I would shout about it too. But its not a breakthrough test.
    What the most important thing in all this is that Jack now has a feel for how things work in the lab.
    What he now needs to know is how long it takes to do the proper studies, ie. prospective, observational and then validatory then interventional. That takes years, rightly because of ethics; primum non nocere.

    As another analogy its probably quite true that most liturgy in parishes these days would fail any ethics scrutiny on primum non nocere alone……..

    I agree on the maths thing…….that is a devilish field, full of many tricksies…..

  19. G1j says:

    Our inventiveness and ingenuity has been legislated out of the hands of the average American. If our country was just starting now, with all of the restrictive legislation in place that we have today, the United States would never come to be. Sad…, but true!

  20. AnnAsher says:

    “Why have we abdicated our ingenuity and spirit to the employees of large corporations?”
    Because we are conditioned to only trust those with letters after their names.
    Because those with letters after their names cant make any money off a $0.03 test.
    Because we want our youth locked up for 12 years, out of the way of those with letters after their names, so that the youth do not take money away from those with letters after their names.
    Because Big Pharma wants a test that works like the $0.03 test but costs much much more.
    Because the Big Green Monster is never satiated.

  21. AnnAsher says:

    @Giuseppe – you’re Grandfather was correct. We all “get cancer”. Everyone develops the occasional misfit cell. Our bodies, when our immune systems are healthy, automatically detect and destroy that misfit before it can replicate. Curing Cancer is not the challenge it is made out to be. Instead cancer patients are fed carcinogenic drugs to kill their current cancer which will inevitably lead to another cancer in 5-10 years.

  22. Lin says:

    CGPearson says:
    I’m not so sure that we’ve lost our ingenuity, but we just don’t have a functional patent system that allows for innovation to flourish. Anytime someone develops a better, cheaper, faster way to do something, there’s a greedy patent-holder ready to pounce and sue the pants off of them.

    Sad but true! WOW! I have never read a series of posts as cynical as these. Trouble is, I agree! Like Padre Pio once said, I’m glad I’m old. And thank goodness GOD is in charge!

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