Zika could treat rare tumors: Study

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Nemours Children's Health researchers found the Zika virus could be used to shrink neuroblastoma tumors.

Neuroblastoma is a rare childhood cancer that typically develops in the sympathetic nervous system or the adrenal glands, according to a Jan. 9 system news release. Researchers studied mice with neuroblastoma tumors that expressed high levels of CD24, a protein developmental protein the virus is known to target.

Researchers injected half the mice with saline solution and the other half with Zika virus. The mice injected with the virus experienced a nearly total loss of tumor size and higher dosage testing resulting in complete elimination of the tumor. After a four-week follow-up, there was no recurrence of the tumor and the mice did not develop any symptoms of Zika virus infection or any side effects.

Researchers then developed mouse models of human neuroblastoma tumors and treated them with Zika or saline. After 28 days, the saline solution tumors had grown by as much as 800%, while the Zika-treated tumors shrunk approximately 12%. After four more weeks, no further tumor growth was detected.

"With further validation, Zika virus could be an extremely effective bridge therapy for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma," Joseph Mazar, PhD, research scientist at Nemours Children's, said in the release. "We also see potential for Zika virus to be used to treat children and adults with other cancers that express high levels of CD24."

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