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November 7, 2018

Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough

Though Pancreatic Cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths and has just a seven percent five-year survival rate, a new breakthrough holds promise for a major improvement in the tricky treatment protocol. The problem is to target the cancer with radiation treatment. The unhealthy cells are often hidden behind the stomach or other organs so sometimes the healthy cells are accidentally being hit by radiation.

The Results of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this new treatment is that it was invented by a 13-year-old middle-school student from Oregon named Rishab Jain. Interestingly, this breakthrough is an algorithm that uses artificial intelligence to find and track the healthy cells of the pancreas in real time. The young scientist's algorithm not only improves the accuracy of treatment but also increases the impact of the radiation treatment. As the winner of the contest, Jain received a check for $25,000 USD.

Deadly Pancreatic Cancer + AI = Innovative Solution
Last year when he discovered the lethal nature of pancreatic cancer, Jain started working on the project. As luck would have it, at the same time, he was also working on artificial intelligence (AI) programming and wondered if he could combine his knowledge of both fields to develop a solution.

Exactly how it works
Breathing and other bodily processes often causes the pancreas to move around the abdominal area and be masked by other organs. In the past, doctors have sometimes needed to utilize an "error circle" with radiation treatment to ensure they targeted the pancreas. However, using an error circle frequently killed healthy cells with the diseased ones. Using machine learning, Jain's algorithm helps doctors more precisely locate the pancreas. Jain's tool tracks the pancreas in the scan itself, so that the radiotherapy treatment is applied to kill only tumor cells.

Adaptable Software
Jain's software works with hospitals' existing radiotherapy equipment or may be incorporated directly into new machines. He is currently in communication with doctors at local Oregon as well as big-name national hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He hopes to tweak and eventually implement his idea. Jain will use some his winnings to advance his machine learning project and fund the nonprofit he created, Samyak Science Society, which will promote STEM learning for children with limited opportunities. The balance will go toward Jain's college fund, so he can study to become either a biomedical engineer or a doctor. He is interested in biomedical engineering, because it includes both fields; thereafter, he wants to attend medical school to become a doctor.

Our young people are a valuable resource
Jain is a shining example of the brilliance of our young people. Our ideal future will include our finding more ways to capitalize on their intelligence and enthusiasm for solving society's biggest challenges.

Special thanks to Bob Prichard and Inside Edition for their reporting on this breakthrough.

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