US teen filled with WIN and AWESOME

So, a US teen has used Google to invent a test for pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer which costs $0.03c and takes five minutes. The current gold-standard test costs $780 and takes hours.

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Imagine if all the kids at home reading Bibles or out protesting Planned Parenthood clinics were reading science papers instead. Just like this kid. Man, cancer’s ass would be whooped in weeks.

  • Mogg

    That is awesome. What a great kid!

  • EldoonFeeb

    But… but… science is evil, right?

    • UrsaMinor

      Totally. It invented public sanitation, antibiotics and effective methods of contraception, and we all know how badly those turned out.

  • Sandra Parsons

    But wait! Who are we to detect or even cure illnesses like cancer, seeing that they are surely God’s way of punishing us for our sins?!

  • machintelligence

    This invention is truly awesome, but the video has one potentially erroneous statement in it: early detection of cancer saves lives. This is due to the unusual way in which cancer “cures” are measured– time from detection to death (as in 5 year survival rate). To use a cartoon example, Snidely Whiplash has chained Little Nell to the railroad tracks. She can first see the train coming 2 miles away (2 year survival). But to torment her, Snidely hands her a pair of binoculars so that she can now see the train 10 miles away (10 year survival). She still dies at the same time, but has “survived” five times as long since detection. If five year survival rate is your standard for successful cure, handing her the binoculars was a “cure” even though it did not prolong her life. There are ways to finesse this statistically, but many don’t bother. This is not to say early detection is a bad thing, but it does not necessarily save lives.

    • smrnda

      Thanks for pointing this out – you might have been the person who said it on another blog when someone was pointing out longer survival rates for cancer as an health statistic where the US does better than other nations.

      • machintelligence

        That was on Respectful Insolence. Orac said it and I shamelessly lifted it!

    • Custador

      In many cases, it very much does. Cancer overall has a survival-to-cure rate of about 85% these days; To my knowledge, 5 year survival (at least here in the UK) means that the disease has been cured (i.e. is not detectable) and there has been no recurrence in 5 years – It doesn’t mean 5 years since diagnosis. A good example of early detection being vital is in ovarian cancer: If it’s caught in the first stage, survival to cure is above 90%. If caught in second stage, survival to cure is below 10%. The US very much does fudge its cancer statistics, though: If you die of a medically diagnosed cancer in the US, chances are you have health insurance. And if you can afford health insurance, chances are you are NOT in the demographic which is most at risk of all forms of cancer (except testicular cancer, bizarrely) – Poor people. If the US delivered honest stats which included socio-economically deprived people, it would show absolutely appalling survival rates for all forms of cancer.

  • Noelle

    Ahhh! What’s he testing? Blood? Tissue samples? Who are the subjects? Do they already have known cancer, or does he test random people and then all the positives go get their ovaries and pancreases biopsied to check? Or imaging studies? What about the negatives? Do the researchers know for sure those people don’t have cancer? I need much more info than this little snippet here. I suppose I could use the Google to find out the specifics if he’s published.

    Smart kid. They don’t say a thing about him not reading a bible or picketing PP though, so you don’t know he doesn’t do that. He’s a freaking genius for making those connections at that age. And kudos to the doc who gave the kid a spot in her lab. I don’t think your average smarty could do this.

    • UrsaMinor

      Yeah, impressive as it sounds, it’s too thick on the hip buzzwords like “carbon nanotubes” and too thin on the really important details like, what are the controls? And what biomarker is actually being detected/assessed? What are the rates for both false positives and false negatives? I need to know a lot more before I break out the champagne.

      • Noelle

        I can break out the wine though, right? (was about to get a glass anyway)

        There’s often a gap between “exciting research finding” and reasonable tool I can actually use.

        • UrsaMinor

          As long as it’s red wine. Higher in resveratrol, don’t you know.

      • DMG

        This article has a bit more of the technical info:
        http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2012/06/18/wait-did-this-15-year-old-from-maryland-just-change-cancer-treatment/

        Summarizing:
        The strips are coated with carbon nanotubes coated in antibodies for a protein called mesothelin, which is a common biomarker for pancreatic cancer. When the mesothelin binds to the antibodies, it pushes the nanotubes further apart, which creates a measurable change in the electrical conductivity of the strips. This electrical measurement is extremely sensitive to the concentration of mesothelin, which is what gives the test its edge over the older technique, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (or ELISA) – even though it’s measuring the same thing and with the same established threshold concentration.

        • machintelligence

          Add a few more exclamation points after the WOW.

        • Noelle

          Interesting article. Nice to see companies with resources are interested in checking it out. The Forbes article says it was checked on 100 people who were already known to have pancreatic cancer or not. It doesn’t touch on the real world question of who do you test, what do you do with the result, etc. good 1st step though.

          The trouble with pancreatic cancer is we don’t have great treatments. We’ve also never had the option of finding it at a microscopic cellular level. By the time something shows up on CT or U/S it’s already too late. It’ll be interesting what cancer researchers do with the new information.


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