Cancer – Highlight HEALTH Discover the Science of Health Wed, 01 Nov 2017 19:47:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 January is National Cervical Health Awareness Month Mon, 09 Jan 2017 03:58:05 +0000 The goal of National Cervical Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV and cervical cancer.]]>

The goal of National Cervical Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV (human papillomavirus) and cervical cancer. HPV is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. It’s also a major cause of cervical cancer.

Every year, approximately 13,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, and, of those, about one-third will die as a result. The good news is that HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. Most insurance plans cover well-woman visits and cervical cancer screening, which means women can get those services at no cost to them.

Today, no woman needs to die from this disease. Cervical cancer has become the ultimate preventable cancer success story. Thanks to advances in early detection and prevention, the cervical cancer death rate has declined by almost 70% due to increased use of Pap tests and the 5 year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer is close to 75%. For a timeline on research and testing developments as well as a list of major risk factors, see the infographic below from the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

You can find more information and resources on cervical cancer at the American Cancer Society.

Early-phase Trial Demonstrates Shrinkage in Pediatric Neural Tumors Fri, 30 Dec 2016 17:14:36 +0000 Early-phase trial demonstrates shrinkage in pediatric neural tumorsIn an early-phase clinical trial of a new oral drug, selumetinib, children with the common genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and plexiform neurofibromas, tumors of the peripheral nerves, tolerated selumetinib and, in most cases, responded to it with tumor shrinkage. NF1 affects 1 in 3,000 people. The study results appeared Dec. 29, 2016, in]]> Early-phase trial demonstrates shrinkage in pediatric neural tumors

In an early-phase clinical trial of a new oral drug, selumetinib, children with the common genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and plexiform neurofibromas, tumors of the peripheral nerves, tolerated selumetinib and, in most cases, responded to it with tumor shrinkage. NF1 affects 1 in 3,000 people. The study results appeared Dec. 29, 2016, in the New England Journal of Medicine [1].

Early-phase trial demonstrates shrinkage in pediatric neural tumors

The multicenter phase I clinical trial, which included 24 patients, was led by Brigitte C. Widemann, M.D., acting chief of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Pediatric Oncology Branch, and was sponsored by NCI’s Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program. The study, conducted at the NIH Clinical Center and three participating sites, took advantage of techniques developed by Dr. Widemann’s team that enabled very precise measurement of the plexiform neurofibromas. Experiments in mice that developed neurofibromas due to genetic modifications were performed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the laboratory of Nancy Ratner, Ph.D. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Just stopping the growth of these devastating tumors is an important achievement. The difference we see in these patients is truly unprecedented.

Plexiform neurofibromas develop in up to 50 percent of people with NF1. The majority of these tumors, which can cause significant pain, disability, and disfigurement, are diagnosed in early childhood and grow most rapidly prior to adolescence. Complete surgical removal of the tumors is rarely feasible, and incompletely resected tumors tend to grow back.

The primary aim of this clinical trial was to evaluate the toxicity and safety of selumetinib in patients with NF1 and inoperable plexiform neurofibromas, and, encouragingly, most of the selumetinib-related toxic effects were mild. At present, no therapies are considered effective for NF1-related large plexiform neurofibromas, but, in this trial, partial responses, meaning 20 percent or more reduction in tumor volume, were observed in over 70 percent of the patients.

Responses were observed in tumors that were previously growing at a rate of greater than 20 percent per year, as well as in non-progressing lesions. Tumor shrinkage was maintained long term, for approximately two years, and, as of early 2016, no disease progression had been observed in any trial participant. Additionally, anecdotal evidence of clinical improvement, such as a decrease in tumor-related pain, improvement in motor function, and decreased disfigurement, was reported.

Dr. Widemann said:

Some may say that a 20 percent volume reduction is too small to be meaningful, but to me, just stopping the growth of these devastating tumors is an important achievement. The difference we see in these patients is truly unprecedented.

The disease-causing gene for NF1 was first identified in 1990 by two independent teams, one of them led by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, Ph.D., M.D., who at the time was chief of Medical Genetics at the University of Michigan. The other team was led by Ray White at the University of Utah. Research to understand the gene’s function revealed that deregulation of the RAS signaling pathway was the most likely cause of tumor development. Numerous drugs that target RAS-related signaling pathways have been tested in patients with NF1 in phase I and phase II clinical trials, with disappointing results, hence the interest in selumetinib.

Selumetinib, provided for the study by AstraZeneca, is a selective inhibitor of the MEK protein, a part of the complex network of RAS signaling pathways. The drug has demonstrated activity in some advanced cancers, but it is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States. It is manufactured in capsule form to be taken orally.

Trial enrollment began in September 2011 and 24 children (11 girls, 13 boys) participated. Twice daily doses of the medicine were taken continuously, over a median of 30 month-long treatment cycles. The majority of patients are still continuing with therapy, some for as long as five years, and the long-term treatment has had no observed adverse effect on their development or overall health.

Experiments in mice with similar neurofibromas confirmed the inhibition of the MEK protein function in the tumors. Inhibition of the MEK protein diminished as early as two hours after drug administration. In addition, the animals received treatment with regular interruptions and still demonstrated tumor responses. This indicates that even limited MEK inhibition could cause tumor shrinkage in this disease.

Dr. Widemann said:

In the future, we may wish to look at intermittent dosing in patients to minimize toxicity and retain maximal outcomes.

In some patients, a loss of response to selumetinib with slow regrowth of tumors was observed, particularly after dose reductions. The researchers believe that additional studies are warranted to characterize tumors that no longer respond to selumetinib. NCI is currently sponsoring an ongoing phase II trial of the drug for adults with NF1, in which serial tissue samples are being obtained. This study should provide information about possible mechanisms of resistance to selumetinib.

In addition, a larger phase II pediatric trial is enrolling patients and should help establish the efficacy of selumetinib treatment in children. In this trial, in addition to tumor volume measurements, evaluations are being performed to assess the effect of selumetinib on plexiform neurofibroma related disfigurement, pain, quality of life, and function.

This research was supported by NCI’s Center for Cancer Research and the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program; by the Children’s Tumor Foundation to Michael Fisher to support participating sites other than the NCI; by AstraZeneca providing selumetinib and funding for the pharmacokinetic analysis; and by grants from the Children’s Tumor Foundation and the Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program (to Dr. Ratner for the mouse preclinical trials).

Source: NIH News


  1. Dombi et al. Activity of Selumetinib in Neurofibromatosis Type 1–Related Plexiform Neurofibromas. N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 29;375(26):2550-2560. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1605943.
    View abstract
Oncologists Have Mixed Attitudes on the Use of Genomic Testing Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:00:04 +0000 A recent study finds that not all physicians are eager to embrace predictive genomic testing.]]>

Predictive genomic testing has the potential to usher in an era of personalized cancer care for patients. However, a recent study finds that not all physicians are eager to embrace the technology.

Cancer genomic testing

Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute surveyed 160 physicians from Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, which has a comprehensive research program that allows all consenting patients to have their tumor genome tested for mutations and other DNA changes.

The physicians were asked about their current use of somatic testing (non-inherited mutations in cancers), their attitudes about multiplex testing (a type of test that simultaneously measures multiple substances in a single run/cycle of the test), and their confidence in their ability to understand and use genomic data.

The survey was conducted between 2011 and 2012. Twenty-two percent of physicians reported low confidence in their genomic knowledge. One quarter of physicians (25%) anticipated testing most patients (>90%), while 18% anticipated testing patients infrequently (<10%).

Higher confidence in genomic testing was associated with wanting to test a majority of patients and anticipating using actionable test results or potentially actionable test results to inform treatment recommendations. Just under half (42%) of respondents said they approved disclosing uncertain genomic findings to patients.

Stacy W. Gray, MD, AM, first author of the study and a thoracic cancer physician at Dana-Farber, said:

Some oncologists said we shouldn’t return these results to patients, and others say ‘of course, we should give them to the patient.’ The fact that we found so much variation in physicians’ confidence about their ability to use genetic data at a tertiary care National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center makes us pause and wonder about how confident physicians in the community are about dealing with this. It begs the question at the national level, how are we going to make sure that this technology for cancer care is adequately delivered?

The researchers advocate for renewed efforts in physician genomic education and decision support. They conclude that a concerted effort is needed to ensure that physicians present information about predictive multiplex tests to patients in a way that enhances patient understanding and increases patients’ test acceptance.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Source: The Asco Post

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Carmel Coloring in Soda May Contain Potential Carcinogen Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:41:15 +0000 The dark-brown coloring of many soft drinks contains a chemical that Consumer Reports warns may contain a potential carcinogen.]]>

The dark-brown coloring of many soft drinks contains a chemical that Consumer Reports warns may contain a potential carcinogen.

Glass cola

On January 23rd, Consumer Reports published findings showing that many dark colored soft drinks contain the chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI). In the United States, product labels refer to the chemical as “caramel coloring,” and although that sounds good it actually has nothing to do with real carmel.

In 2007, a study concluded that 4-MeI caused cancer in mice [1]. Three years later in 2010, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined the 4-MeI to be “possibly carcinogenic to humans” [2]. Although there’s no federal limit for levels of 4-MeI in foods and beverages, since January 2012 the state of California requires manufacturers to label a product sold in the state with a cancer warning if it exposes consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI per day.

Consumer Reports tested 81 cans and bottles of various popular brands of soft drinks from stores in California and New York between April and September 2013. If the brand tested above 29 micrograms, it was tested again from the same areas in December 2013.

Both rounds of testing found that the level of 4-MeI in the samples of Pepsi One and Malta Goya purchased from both locations exceeded 29 micrograms per can or bottle:

  • California Pepsi One average: 41.5 micrograms
  • New York Pepsi One average: 178.05 micrograms
  • California Malta Goya average: 334.3 micrograms
  • New York Malta Goya average: 325.1 micrograms

In testing, three brands — Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero — came in under 5 micrograms per can. Sprite, which was tested as a control (since it’s a clear soda), showed no significant levels of 4-MeI.

Consumer Reports is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set a federal standard for 4-MeI. In a statement, the FDA said it does not believe that 4-MeI from caramel coloring at levels currently in food pose a risk. The FDA are currently doing their own tests of foods, including sodas, for 4-MeI. In addition, they are reviewing new safety data on 4-MeI to determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken.

Source: Consumer Reports


  1. National Toxicity Program. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of 4-methylimidazole (Cas No. 822-36-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 2007 Jan;(535):1-274.
    View abstract
  2. IARC Monograph on 4-methylimidazole. International Agency for Research on Cancer. 2010 Dec 27.
U.S. Cancer Deaths Down 20 Percent Over Last Two Decades Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:00:00 +0000 According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report, fewer people are dying from cancer.]]>

According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report, fewer people are dying from cancer.


The report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, evaluated cancer death rates from 1991 to 2010. Mortality data shows a 20% decline in the combined cancer death rate (deaths per 100,000 population). This translates to the avoidance of approximately 1.3 million cancer deaths.

The size of the decline in cancer death rates over the last 20 years varies substantially by age, race, and sex, ranging from no decline among white women aged 80 years and older to a 55% decline among black men aged 40 years to 49 years. Notably, black men experienced the largest drop within every 10-year age group.

In a statement, John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said:

The halving of the risk of cancer death among middle aged black men in just two decades is extraordinary, but it is immediately tempered by the knowledge that death rates are still higher among black men than white men for nearly every major cancer and for all cancers combined.

According to projections in the ACS report, an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2014 and just over one-third of patients will die from the disease.

Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for roughly half of all newly diagnosed cancers (prostate cancer alone will account for 27%). In women, cancers of the breast, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for 50% of all new cases (breast cancer alone will account for 29%).

Recent studies suggest that as much as 70% of all cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer; indeed even something as simple as a daily aspirin may reduce cancer risk.

Source: CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

Project Violet Combines Crowdfunding, Social Media, and Video Game-style Engagement for Drug Discovery Wed, 11 Sep 2013 12:59:10 +0000 Project Violet is an effort to build a citizen science community and drive early drug discovery at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.]]>

Project Violet is a philanthropic effort to build a citizen science community and drive early drug discovery at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center [1]. Launched last month, the project combines aspects of crowdfunding, social media, and video game-style engagement to raise capital from thousands of donors and engage them in a drug discovery journey over the next few years.

Project Violet

Jim Olson, M.D., Ph.D., leader of the project, pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and clinical researcher at Fred Hutch, named it after a spirited, red-headed girl named Violet who died at age 11 from an inoperable brainstem tumor. Before Violet died last year, she and her family requested her brain tumor be used to create research tools that could be shared with scientists worldwide to help kids who are diagnosed in the future.

Dr. Olson said [1]:

That spirit of generosity led to the most exciting scientific project I’ve worked on in my life. It was only fitting that it be named after Violet. I knew that we were going to do this in her spirit, memory and honor.

A new class of anti-cancer drugs

Project Violet aims to develop a fundamentally new class of anti-cancer compounds called optides (optimized peptides found in nature) — chemical templates from organisms such as violets, scorpions and sunflowers — to attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.

Traditional drugs are often small molecules. In contrast, optides are protein peptides — short chains of 30 to 40 amino acids in length that can bind to specific targets in cells. Unlike antibody therapeutics, optides are small enough to get inside cells and can reach difficult, three dimensional targets that can be inaccessible to conventional small molecule drugs.

Fred Hutch scientists have discovered how to create thousands of optide variations (they report they can now create 10,000 optides in three weeks). The small team can produce the drugs on campus instead of having to use an expensive contract manufacturer.

Now the race is on to identify the ones that can shut down cancer or paralyze diseases that affect human patients. Viable drug candidates will be handed off to a commercial partner, likely Blaze Bioscience (founded by Olson), for further development. The Hutch recently amended its collaboration with Blaze Bioscience; the company has the exclusive option to license optides developed through Project Violet [2].

Crowdfunding research

Project Violet is crowdfunding the research in a unique way: donate $100 and adopt a drug. According to the website, you can “select a drug candidate to call your own, join the drug discovery process and try to pick a lifesaving winner.” It’s a rare opportunity to share in the challenges and triumph of drug discovery from initial research through to FDA approval.

Donors will receive an illustration of their molecule, and they will be able to follow periodic blog updates from researchers who will share some of the problems and successes in the early phases of drug development. In the event that an adopted molecule fails, the donor can get switched to a new one. Dr. Olson’s team has thought extensively about how to keep donor interest up over time, and are building in options to maintain engagement.

In addition to cancer, in this very first phase of Project Violet, the optides are also being tested to prevent stroke, brain and mental health disorders, and a certain type of autism.

Watch Dr. Jim Olson’s TEDxSeattle talk (below) and, to encourage those who care about cancer patients to spread the word, the Washington Research Foundation (WRF) will donate up to $50,000 ($10 for each view) toward cancer drug discovery. In the talk, Dr. Olson discusses how he was inspired by individual patients that he cared for, and how this inspiration led to a whole new platform of drug candidates that come from violets, sunflowers, spiders and scorpions.

At the Project Violet website, you can adopt a drug candidate, gift a drug candidate or make a donation.


  1. How a little girl with brain cancer inspired ‘citizen science.’ Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 2013 Aug 12.
  2. Blaze Bioscience and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Enter into Collaboration and Option Agreement in Support of Optides Discovery Program. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 2013 July 3.
Big Ten Universities Form Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium Mon, 10 Jun 2013 11:14:35 +0000 Big Ten Cancer Research ConsortiumLast week, leaders from Big Ten universities' cancer centers kicked off the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. ]]> Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

In sports, the Big Ten universities compete against each other, but now many will join together to fight cancer. Last week in Chicago, Illinois, leaders from the universities’ cancer centers kicked off the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium [1].

Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

The cancer centers are uniting to transform cancer research through collaborative oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of the Big Ten universities listed below. The consortium forms a powerful collaboration because of the solid research infrastructure already existing at each university. The consortium also leverages geographical locations and existing relationships among the cancer centers.

According to Noah Hahn, M.D., executive officer of the consortium, associate professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center [1]:

 A critical byproduct of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium will be the creation of a new arena for junior faculty cancer researchers to design and lead potential practice-changing cancer studies. Opportunities for junior faculty to lead clinical trials have been evaporating in recent years, but the consortium aims to intentionally promote junior faculty participation and leadership in all trials under appropriate senior faculty guidance and mentorship in an effort to address those decreasing opportunities.

Patrick J. Loehrer Sr., M.D., director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, added [1]:

Tremendous strengths exist in the cancer centers of the Big Ten. This is a rare opportunity for the universities to work together as part of a regional team science initiative to advance cancer research. The advantage of this, particularly during a time of austerity for research, is that we can build upon the strengths of the institutions and fortify some of the shortcomings. This allows us to be lean, efficient but, most importantly, collaborative.

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium consists of the following universities and cancer centers:

The Indianapolis-based Hoosier Oncology Group will serve as the administrative headquarters for the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Since 1984, Hoosier Oncology Group has initiated more than 150 clinical trials with more than 4,000 patients.


  1. IU Simon Cancer Center Joins Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Indiana University School of Medicine. 2013 May 31.
American Urology Association Changes Position on Routine Prostate Testing Tue, 07 May 2013 01:39:55 +0000 New guidelines from the American Urological Association now say that men under 55 should not get routinely screened with a PSA test for prostate cancer.]]>

The American Urological Association, which in recent years has defended the PSA screening test, has changed it’s position and no longer recommends routine testing for men.

PSA testing

On Friday, the American Urological Association (AUA) announced that men under the age of 55 should not get routinely screened with a PSA test  [1]. Men who are between the ages of 55 and 69 should talk with their doctors about the benefits and harms of testing and proceed based on their personal values and preferences.

The new guidelines for early detection of prostate cancer were developed using evidence from a systematic literature review rather than consensus opinion, and provides rating and interpretation of the evidence based on randomized controlled trials with modeled and population data as supporting evidence. The AUA panel acknowledged that ongoing research, including studies on biomarkers other than PSA, may lead to changes in the guidelines statements, and announced plans to regularly update the guidelines based on new evidence.

Unlike other types of cancers, prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer. And although cancer develops in the prostate in most men as they age, it causes no trouble for most of them. Autopsy studies of men who died from something other than prostate cancer show that 30% of men over age 50 and 70% of men over age 70 have some cancerous cells in their prostate [2]. The cancers were too small to be detected by biopsy. The development of the PSA test changed this. While the PSA test can detect the presence of cancerous prostate cells, it can’t distinguish between ones that pose no threat to health from those that will.

In May 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — an independent panel of medical experts that advise the government on treatment guidelines — released a recommendation that healthy men should not get routinely screened with a PSA test for prostate cancer, citing a number of harms related to screening and diagnostic procedures [3].

The recent AUA announcement is in sharp contrast from last year, when the organization blasted the Task Force for its recommendation, saying that they were “outraged at the USPSTF’s failure to amend its recommendations on prostate cancer testing to more adequately reflect the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in the diagnosis of prostate cancer” [4].

The PSA test is used to measure levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate, in the blood. PSA is a biomarker for prostate cancer.

Dr. H. Ballentine Carter, who chaired the panel that developed the guideline, said in a press release [1]:

There is general agreement that early detection, including prostate-specific antigen screening, has played a part in decreasing mortality from prostate cancer. The randomized controlled trials are more mature at this point and there is more data available today than there was in 2009. It’s time to reflect on how we screen men for prostate cancer and take a more selective approach in order to maximize benefit and minimize harms.

To further reduce the harms of cancer screening, for those men who have decided on screening, the AUA guidelines suggest a routine screening interval of two years or more instead of an annual screening to preserve the majority of screening benefits and reduce over diagnosis and false positives.

The guidelines do not recommend routine PSA screening in men over age 70 or any man with less than a 10-15 year life expectancy.


  1. AUA Releases New Clinical Guideline on Prostate Cancer Screening. American Urological Association press release. 2013 May 3.
  2. PSA Screening for Prostate Cancer. Weill Cornell Medical College. Accessed 2012 May 5.
  3. Screening for Prostate Cancer. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. 2012 May.
  4. AUA Disputes Panel’s Recommendations on Prostate Cancer Screening. American Urological Association press release. 2012 May 21.
Inspiring 15-Year-Old Develops Cancer Sensor Fri, 21 Dec 2012 20:31:15 +0000 Jack AndrakaJust 15 years old, Jack Andraka has invented a test that detects early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer, and is cheaper and faster than today's gold standard test.]]> Jack Andraka

Jack Andraka has invented a test that can detect early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. The cancer sensor is cheaper and faster than today’s gold standard test. In May of this year, Jack Andraka’s groundbreaking research won $75,000 for the first place prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Jack plans to put that money towards college, because he’s just 15 years old.

Jack Andraka

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death among men and women [1]. Projections based on the changing demographics of the U.S. population and changes in incidence and death rates suggest that pancreatic cancer will move from the fourth to the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by 2020 [2].

Pancreatic cancer can often be difficult to diagnose, and is frequently not found until later stages when the cancer can no longer be removed with surgery because it has metastasized or spread from the pancreas to other parts of the body. The overall one-year survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer is 26%, and the five-year survival rate is approximately 6%. If the cancer is detected at an early stage when surgical removal of the tumor is possible, the five-year survival rate quadruples to about 22%. That’s what makes Jack Andraka’s invention noteworthy — the ability to detect pancreatic cancer early.

A paper sensor

Spurred by the loss of a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, Jack began looking for a simple way to detect early pancreatic cancer when he was 14. He got an idea for how it might be done during biology class and spent a few months researching the subject and writing a research proposal. He cites search engines and free online science papers as the tools that allowed him to develop his proposal. When he set out to find a mentor and a laboratory in which to work, Jack contacted about 200 researchers. He received 297 rejections and one acceptance. The researcher who said yes was Anirban Maitra, M.D., a professor of pathology and oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a top researcher in pancreatic cancer.

Jack, working with Dr. Maitra, developed a dip-stick paper sensor that tests the level of a pancreatic cancer biomarker called mesothelin (MSLN) in the blood or urine of a patient. The sensor can also be used for lung and ovarian cancer because mesothelin is a biomarker for those diseases as well.

The sensor is 168 times faster than the existing diagnostic test called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive. It costs just $3 and ten tests can be performed per strip, with each test taking five minutes.

The sensor is a piece of filter paper dipped in a solution of carbon nanotubes, which are hollow cylinders with walls the thickness of a single atom, coated with a specific antibody designed to bind to mesothelin (the pancreatic cancer biomarker).

Jack’s key insight is that there are measurable changes in the electrical conductivity of nanotubes when the distances between them changes. This is what makes the sensor more sensitive than existing tests: when the antibodies on the surface of the nanotubes bind mesothelin, the nanotubes spread apart a tiny bit, but enough that the electrical conductivity changes. Amplify that change by many nanotubes and it can be detected by an electrical meter. In the lab, Jack used a $50 meter from the Home Depot, but, he says, doctors can just as easily insert the paper test-strips into portable devices similar to those used by diabetics.

Just Jack

Documentarian Linda Peters created the 2012 short film “Just Jack” in the hopes of sharing Jack Andraka’s story and bringing awareness to the advancements coming in cancer detection and the massive affects it will create on survival rates.

Entitled “Just Jack”, the short film is currently a semi-finalist in the Focus Forward Film Contest and an “Audience Favorite”. Check out the video below and help spread the word on the work this teenage genius has done. You can connect with them on Twitter @JustJackFilms or Facebook.

A 15 year old boy from Maryland developed an early detection test for cancer that works and will save lives. What do you wonder about? What can you do today?


  1. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. American Cancer Society. 2012
  2. The Alarming Rise of Pancreatic Cancer Deaths in the United States: Why We Need to Stem The Tide Today. Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. 2012 Aug.
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The Good News About Cancer: You Can Reduce Your Risk Thu, 29 Nov 2012 04:41:00 +0000 The good news about cancerThis infographic from Rock Your Cause covers some important facts about cancer and offers six easy steps to reduce your risk.]]> The good news about cancer

Rock Your Cause is a socially conscious brand with a mandate of participative philanthropy, a fancy phrase we like that simply means giving anyone and everyone the chance to be involved and support causes they are passionate about. The organization is starting a global conversation about the causes of cancer and cancer prevention.

Although cancer is the leading cause of death in the world today [1], there’s many things you can do to reduce your cancer risk. The Rock Your Cause infographic below illustrates six easy steps to reduce your risk:

  1. Let food be thy medicine
  2. Stop getting drunk in the name of health
  3. Don’t be a couch potato, get some exercise
  4. Don’t smoke
  5. Protect or regret
  6. Be alert, know your risks and get routine checkups

Many of the facts presented in the infographic may be surprising, such as “9 out of 10 cancers are linked to environmental & lifestyle factors” and “30%-35% of cancer deaths can be linked to diet”. Here’s a few more:

You can follow Rock Your Cause on Twitter @RYCause or like the Rock Your Cause Facebook page. For more information on cancer, check out A Brief History of the War on Cancer and the Cancer channel here on Highlight HEALTH.

Infographic: The Good News About Cancer

The good news about cancer

Via: Rock Your Cause


  1. Cancer. World Health Organization. Accessed 2011 Nov 1.