I remember when I was 15. Just about all I could think about was getting through driver’s education, and getting a car. Oh, the wonderful things I could do with a car. I certainly wasn’t thinking about something as lofty as redefining the methods in which the world detects some of the deadliest cancers. That is exactly what 15-year-old Jack Andraka has done, and he did it without millions of dollars in grants and research money.
In his TEDx Talk, Jack explains that he had a very close family friend pass away from pancreatic cancer and in the light of that tragedy, he wondered why certain cancers, like pancreatic cancer, are so often times not diagnosed until it is too late. What he found was that current detection methods are, at best, invasive, expensive, and 60-years-old. I mean, we are talking about a cancer that 45,220 Americans will be diagnosed with, 38,460 of which will die from it.
Using little more than Google and Wikipedia, Jack has devised a method for cancer detection that takes about 5 minutes, costs 3 cents, and is 90% accurate. Compared to the 60-year-old method for detection that currently costs $800 dollars and misses roughly 30% of diagnoses, Jack’s method is 168 times faster, is 400 times more sensitive, and costs 26,000 times less.
In other words, what this teenage boy has done is revolutionize the detection of some of the deadliest cancers known to modern medicine. The key to surviving these deadly cancers is early detection and treatment, so having such an inexpensive, fast, and accurate method of detection will go a long wy to save millions of lives. Not bad for a 15-year-old. Check out Jack’s TEdx Talk about his discovery and see for yourself what a smart, determined, and inventive 15-year-old can do with some of the most basic online tools: