If at first you don't succeed, revolutionize diagnostics for pancreatic cancer anyway. That was Jack Andraka's game plan.
They call him the "Cancer Paper Boy," and though he's just a teenager, he conducts pancreatic cancer research.
The young scientist learned at the age of 14 that while pancreatic cancer has one of the most deadly prognoses (85% are diagnosed when a patient has less than a 2% chance of survival), the detection method was outdated. It was 60 years old to be exact, and Andraka was having none of that.
"I was sure there had to be a better way," he says in an interview with filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.
And so he found one.
Andraka first figured out how to change the electrical properties of a protein related to the cancer. This, he believed, would be the solution to achieving earlier detection. Next, he had to get his hands on a laboratory.
He wrote 200 letters asking for a space to work. He received rejections - 199 1/2... one person said "Maybe." To be fair to the lab people, even his parents discouraged him. His mom thought a kid in high school "couldn't do this sort of thing."
Dismissing the cynics, Andraka fought for three months to get an interview with the aforementioned maybe-er, and was finally given the space he needed for his experiments.
He struggled for awhile (in genius time...it wasn't actually very long), and eventually succeeded.
"I ended up with a small test trip that's the size of a diabetes test strip, but is 168 times faster, over 26,000 times less expensive and over 400 times more sensitive than the current gold standard," he explains, adding, "And the key here is the cancer patient has close to 100% chance of survival if they're diagnosed early."
All we have to say is wow. He TOLD us!