Stephen Litt Is Just Your Average 12-Year-Old Cancer Researcher

Middle-school science fairs aren't usually hotbeds of groundbreaking research. But for seventh-grader Stephen Litt, showing up with a miniature homemade volcano wasn't going to cut it. Instead, the 12-year-old opted to pursue a cancer-related research project—and he gained national acclaim for what he found. Kids these days, you know?

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"Did I Get A Good Grade?"

Stephen Litt's bold choice to take on cancer-related research for his school science fair was inspired by his mom's friends, who have suffered from breast cancer. The resulting project swept the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair. Stephen's project asked if an antioxidant found in green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG) could prevent breast cancer tumors in a type of flatworm called planaria. (Don't worry, his chemist father helped him handle some of the dangerous stuff involved here.) The answer to that question?: Shockingly, yes.

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He came up with the idea to look at green tea's cancer-fighting antioxidant after researching the disease via this Live Science article. "He did more reading and found an article on green tea, because we like Japanese food, and read that there were antioxidants in green tea that help kill breast cancer," Stephen's father Lesley Litt told ABC News.

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Stephen discusses his project with other students at the science fair.
Planaria under microscope.
Stephen's microscope and lab space in his home.

Tufts Luck, Kid

Six Georgia Science and Engineering Fair awards and one invitation to a national competition later, Stephen is headed to a real lab. The homemade lab his dad helped him assemble, complete with the microscope gifted by his grandparents, can only get a kid so far. Stephen's outstanding research project earned him an invitation from Michael Levin, the director of Tuft's Allen Discovery Center, to tour the university's laboratory. Levin told ABC News, "The work is very interesting and has the potential to advance not only cancer research but regenerative medicine as well." He called Stephen's project "remarkable" and "absolutely advanced for his age." Not bad for a 12-year-old aspiring chemical engineer.

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Written by Curiosity Staff May 3, 2017

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