Change-Makers: Innovating Cancer Treatment
In 2018, 13 year old Rishab Jain was named America’s Top Young Scientist and won a $25,000 prize at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for his work and research in improving pancreatic cancer treatment.
Inspired by his brother and family members who work in STEM, Rishab has always been interested in programming and artificial intelligence. In 2017, during a trip to a local laboratory in Boston, he learnt about the low survival rates of pancreatic cancer and how aggressive it is.
And then, when a close family friend died of cancer, he decided to put his engineering passions to use and make something that could help solve real-world problems, and save millions of lives.
“Pancreatic cancer is a highly lethal and difficult-to-treat disease, so I created an invention to improve one of the treatment options, which is radiotherapy.” said Rishab.
His invention, the PCDLS (Pancreatic Cancer Deep Learning System) uses artificial intelligence to help track the pancreas during treatment.
The pancreas is usually obscured by other organs like the stomach, and anatomical processes, such as breathing, sometimes make it move around the abdomen. That makes locating it during radiation treatment difficult, and can result in inadvertently targeting and killing healthy tissue as well as tumour cells in the pancreas.
Rishab’s PCDLS aims to change this. He explains, “In radiotherapy treatment where radiation is applied to kill tumour cells, my tool tracks the pancreas in the scan itself. when the radiation hits, it hits the pancreas accurately and efficiently so it can help treat the tumour much more effectively.”
And effective it is! Through a lot of testing and development of the algorithm, Rishab found that it could correctly detect the pancreas with a 98.9% sensitivity. It’s no wonder he won!
And his winnings are only going to further his work in changing lives. As well as creating this technology, Rishab has also founded a nonprofit called Samyak Science Society, which promotes STEM learning for children who may not otherwise have the opportunities, and continues to raise pancreatic cancer awareness.
“I believe all children, whatever their age, should be exposed to STEM and I want to help make that a reality today,” he says.
And as for his own goals? Well, Rishab is still pretty focused on school (and homework!) right now. But that doesn’t mean he’s not already dreaming about the future. “I’m thinking [of studying] biomedical engineering...and then probably medical school to become a doctor.”
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