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
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