Seventh grader’s science project finds cancer fighting chemical in green tea

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Marietta, GA -- A seventh grader's science project has found a cancer fighting chemical in a common grocery item.

12 year-old Stephen Litt found that an antioxidant in green tea may prevent breast cancer tumors.

He got the idea after reading that the Japanese population had lower rates of breast cancer and also drank a lot of green tea.

In making this discovery, he and his dad -- a chemist -- tested epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant in green tea, to determine if it could prevent cancer tumors in planaria, a type of flatworms.

They decided to use planarian worms because they are known to have stem cells called neoblasts which mimic the behavior of cancer cells.

Over a course of four weeks, Stephen divided 100 planaria into four groups and exposed them to carcinogens in order to test his hypotheses that a polyphenol in green tea could inhibit tumor formation in the worms.

He ultimately found that the worms exposed to EGCG and carcinogens grew no tumors over the course of his observations.

Litt's research earned praise in the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair and has gone on to receive national attention.

While it's not a cure for cancer in humans, he says he plans on continuing his research for next year's science fair.