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Zika virus may help treat childhood cancer :

July 25, 2018

Zika virus potentially could help treat neuroblastoma, according to a new study.

The tumors impact about one in 7,000 children and often are resistant to aggressive treatments. However, when researchers infected cultured neuroblastoma cells with Zika virus, they found most were killed within 10 days.

The exception was the neuroblastoma cell line SK-N-AS, which was lacking the CD24 membrane protein. Researchers determined this protein would be required for using Zika to fight neuroblastoma cells. It often is expressed on cancer cells but is less common on differentiated cells.

“The same thing that makes Zika so detrimental to developing infants gives it promise as a cancer treatment. Its attack on developing nerve cells, the same type of cells neuroblastoma is derived, allows the virus to selectively target cancer cells and leave normal cells alone,” study co-author Tamarah Westmoreland, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, a pediatric general and thoracic surgeon at Nemours Children’s Hospital, said in a news release.

Zika virus also has relatively rare and benign side effects for those acquiring it postnatally — rash, conjunctivitis, fever and joint pain. The virus potentially could be useful for treating other cancers as well, according to the study. Authors said additional investigation will be needed to determine Zika’s full potential as a cancer treatment.

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