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Fairfax high school student discovers soap to treat skin cancer

Rebecca Barnabi
doctor checking senior patient skin
(© goodluz – stock.adobe.com)

A Fairfax high school freshman was named “America’s Top Young Scientist” with his creation of a bar of soap he designed to fight low-grade skin cancer.

“I wanted to try to find a way for the entire world to be able to have an equitable and accessible form of skin cancer treatment,” Heman Bekele, 14, told NBC4 Washington.

A student at Woodson High School, Heman spent the summer working on a cure for cancer, which he calls a skin cancer-treating soap, or SCTS. His soap creation replenishes skin with dendritic cells, which help protect skin and fight cancer. A prescription is necessary then the soap can be applied to skin every couple of days.

Heman said he reached out to UVA professors for help with research before he created the soap. Then he entered Discovery Education’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge in St. Paul, Minnesota to compete and won the top prize of $25,000 out of nine students.

“I’m still fully processing it. I just came out of the competition two days ago and I think, more than anything, I’m grateful, and I’m really happy to see where this project takes me,” Heman said.

He hopes to market the soap in the next five years and start a nonprofit for patients in need.

“There’s a lot left for me to discover, but as of right now, I’m thinking of working on something in either the biomedical industry or something as an electrical engineer, so either of those fields would be really cool,” Heman said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.