Zika virus may treat high-risk pediatric cancer, study finds

Despite fears of the Zika virus' potentially harmful effects on pregnant mothers and unborn babies, the virus may one day be used as a cancer treatment for neuroblastoma — a deadly pediatric cancer, according to early findings published in PLOS ONE.

"The same thing that makes Zika so detrimental to unborn babies gives it promise as a cancer treatment. Its attack on developing nerve cells, the same type of cells neuroblastoma develops from, allows the virus to target these cancer cells and leave normal cells alone," Kenneth Alexander, MD, PhD andchief of the division of infectious diseases at Orlando, Fla.-based Nemours Children's Hospital, said in a news release.

More studies are needed, but the findings provide a research framework.

Although Neuroblastoma tumors account for just 6 percent of all childhood cancers, they cause a disproportionately high number (15 percent) of deaths from childhood cancer, and most cases do not respond well to standard treatments.

"Neuroblastoma is a challenging childhood cancer that is in need of innovative therapies," said Tamarah Westmoreland, MD, PhD and pediatric general and thoracic surgeon at Nemours. "By targeting the developing nerve cell from which neuroblastoma arises, Zika virus may serve as a potential adjunctive treatment."

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control: 
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7 recent findings on neonatal, pediatric care

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