Is Jack Andraka One of Those B.S. News Stories on the Internet?
February 27, 2013 2 Comments
Remember the thing about 5 Easy Ways to Spot a B.S. News Story on the Internet? A couple of hours later someone posted this on Facebook: Jack Andraka, the Teen Prodigy of Pancreatic Cancer. From his Wikipedia entry:
Jack Thomas Andraka (born in 1997) is an inventor, scientist and cancer researcher. He is the 2012 Intel Science Fair grand prize winner. Andraka was awarded the Gordon E. Moore Award for his work in developing a new method to detect pancreatic cancer.  The Gordon E. Moore Award, named in honor of the co-founder of Intel, is for $75,000. He also won other prizes in smaller individual categories for a total award of $100,500.
The result of his project was a new dipstick type diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer using a novel paper sensor, similar to that of the diabetic test strip. This strip tests for the level of mesothelin, a pancreatic cancer biomarker, in blood or urine, to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. The test is over 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin. According to Andraka, it is also 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive (costing around three cents), over 400 times more sensitive than the current diagnostic tests and only takes five minutes to run. He says the test is also effective for detecting ovarian and lung cancer, due to the same mesothelin biomarker they have in common.
Officials at Intel have said that Andraka’s method is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting the presence of mesothelin.
Which sounds exactly like #1 in the Cracked article – #1. It’s About a Miracle Cure for Obesity, Cancer, or Clean Energy:
I’m not a pessimist, and I think the future will be awesome. But the vast majority of the positive science news that turns up on Reddit or science blogs or tech sites is pure bullshit.
Sometimes the stories are outright false, like the one about that genius 13-year-old who invented a far more efficient way to collect solar energy, or the group of African teenagers who invented a machine to get electricity from urine (in the first case, it turned out the kid did his calculations wrong, and in the second, the reporters misunderstood what the machine did — the former was retracted a few days later, the latter was debunked by people who have a better idea of what they’re talking about)
Andraka received a prize for his invention from Intel, which is a smart bunch who you wouldn’t expect to make a mistake. Yet the 13 year old with his solar energy invention received his prize from the American Museum of Natural History (also a smart bunch), who it turns out didn’t understand that they should have been measuring total power output and not just voltage. It makes you wonder how much Intel doesn’t know about medicine.
So yeah, I won’t be surprised if Jack Andraka’s miracle pancreatic cancer test never makes it to market.