Zika is being used to treat children cancer

Scientists are optimistic that a fatal African virus can be developed into a treatment for a fatal paediatric cancer.

Infection with the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, reduces the concentration of a protein that accumulates excessively in patients with specific malignancies.

A group of Florida-based researchers has demonstrated that, at least in mice, it is capable of eradicating neuroblastomas, which comprise one in every seven paediatric cancer-related fatalities and develop from nerve cell precursors.

A treatment for these particular forms of brain cancers has been absent for more than four decades.

The research was conducted by Dr. Matthew Davis of Nemours Children’s Health in Florida. He remarked that the team was “at the forefront of potentially lifesaving cancer treatment.”

“We are optimistic that this research will establish a pathway towards enhanced prognosis for individuals afflicted with neuroblastoma.”

Cancers such as neuroblastoma generate substantial quantities of CD24, which is classified as a developmental protein.

Zika’s Impact on Neuroblastoma

Zika has also been demonstrated to reduce and target protein. This has previously caused congenital anomalies, including microcephaly, in patients with normal levels of CD24.

In patients with elevated CD24 levels, Zika was found to decrease those levels. As a consequence, the tumour volume diminished.

Neuroblastoma is a subtype of blastoma that originates in foetal or paediatric developing cells.

Although infants are the typical target of blastomas, adults can also be affected. John McCain, for instance, was afflicted with glioblastoma, an immune-suppressing brain malignancy.

Associate professor of surgery at Nemour Children’s and study author Dr. Tamarah Westmoreland stated, “These patients are in dire need of new treatment options.”

Neuroblastoma tumours characterised by elevated levels of the developmental protein CD24 were investigated in rodents.

This protein is also targeted by the Zika virus, which can result in microcephaly, an abnormally small head circumference in infants, among other developmental complications.

Zika was injected into the remaining rodents, while a saline solution was administered to half of the mice. Three times per week for four weeks, the dimensions of the tumours were assessed.

The tumours of mice administered the maximum dose of Zika were completely eradicated, and they exhibited no indication of recurrence after a period of four weeks.

Conversely, the proliferation of tumours in mice exposed to the saline solution had escalated to 800 percent.

Navigating Neuroblastoma Challenges and Prospects

Nemours Children’s executive vice president and chief scientific officer, Dr. Matthew Davis, stated, “Neuroblastoma is frequently a difficult disease to diagnose, particularly in patients who are unlikely to respond favourably to chemotherapy.”

However, the group cautioned that further research is necessary to ascertain the safety of Zika as a cancer treatment. Additional investigation is what the scientists intend to undertake prior to commencing clinical trials.

Dr. Joseph Mazar, a research scientist at Nemour Children’s and the author of the study, stated, “Zika virus could be an extremely effective bridge therapy for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma with additional validation.”

Additionally, there is hope that the Zika virus could be utilised to treat adults and children with other malignancies that exhibit elevated levels of CD24.

Neuroblastoma originates from embryonic nerve cells that develop in various anatomical sites. However, it predominantly originates in the adrenal glands, anatomically situated atop the kidneys.

Abdominal pain, a mass beneath the skin, alterations in bowel movements, wheezing, chest pain, back pain, protruding eyes from their orbits, fever, and bone pain are some of the symptoms.

Neuroblastoma predominantly manifests in paediatric patients below the age of five. An estimated 700 to 800 cases occur annually.

In adolescents under the age of 14, the five-year survival rate for neuroblastoma is 80%. However, survival rates for the more aggressive subtype are merely half.

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