Imagine that a teenager was able to come up with a beautifully simple way to diagnose one of the most deadly cancers. That’s right. Some years from now, pancreatic cancer may be initially identified in a person with a simple urine dipstick test.
This is not science fiction. This is real.
Jack Andraka was just fifteen when he developed an idea to test for pancreatic cancer using a dipstick that looks for the presence of mesothelin which is a protein found in blood and urine and considered a biomarker for pancreatic cancer.
Andraka sent inquiries to 200 scientific researchers about his idea, and all but one ignored him. Of course, it only takes one person for an idea to have a chance. An expert in the genetics of pancreatic cancer from Johns Hopkins University, Anirban Maitra, gave Jack Andraka that chance.
The hardest part for people at risk for developing pancreatic cancer is the wait for this test to be tested and approved for the market. In the United States alone, it is expected that about 46,520 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014 and about 39,590 people will die from this disease. The sad thing is that rates of pancreatic cancer have increased over the last ten years (“What Are the Key Statistics…”).
And even worse, is that pancreatic cancer belongs to a group of cancers that is initially symptom-less which means that early diagnosis is often not possible. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is abysmally low. In its earliest stages, it is just 14% (“Survival Rates…”).
This test will fall under the FDA’s classification of medical devices and will be in the company of tests that measure such things as glucose and cholesterol. Some of these tests take years to be approved. In the case of the pancreatic cancer urine test, one thing in its favor is that it is a non-invasive test. It does not require any invasive procedure or the patient’s body to interact with any chemical.
Perhaps the nature of the test will help fast-track it to market sooner.
Also on the horizon is another test for pancreatic cancer using saliva. It was recently reported in Science Daily (“Bacteria in Mouth May…”). Finally, innovative ideas may help push up early diagnosis and survival rates of pancreatic cancer.
“Bacteria in Mouth May Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer.” Science Daily. 18 May 2014. Web. 20 June, 2014. .
“Survival Rates for Pancreatic Cancer.” Cancer.org. 03 February, 2014. Web. 20 June, 2014. .
“What Are the Key Statistics About Pancreatic Cancer.” Cancer.org 05 February, 2014. Web. 20 June, 2014. .