OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
1:55 PM – Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Researchers are now working to cure a fatal form of childhood cancer using a deadly African virus.
The Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, lowers levels of a protein that young patients with specific cancers have. Most cases of the Zika virus transmission involve mosquito bites, unprotected sexual contact between individuals, and transmission from pregnant women to their offspring.
It was discovered by Nemours Children’s Health researchers in Florida that the Zika virus may have the potential to “lessen neuroblastoma tumors,” which are tumors that form in the nerve cells during childhood development and account for 1-in-7 cancer-related deaths in children.
Doctor Matthew Davis of Nemours Children’s Health, who is partially credited with orchestrating the scientific findings, stated that the crew is at the “forefront of potentially lifesaving cancer treatment.”
“We are hopeful that this study will pave the way toward improved survival for patients with neuroblastoma,” Davis said.
The developmental protein CD24 is produced by cancers such as neuroblastoma and it has been demonstrated that the Zika virus targets and reduces the protein. In individuals with normal CD24 levels, this has previously produced some birth abnormalities such as microcephaly.
The Zika virus has been shown to lower CD24 levels in patients with elevated levels of the protein. As a result, the tumors significantly reduced in size.
Doctor Tamarah Westmoreland, the study’s author and an associate professor of surgery at Nemours Children’s Health, said that young cancer patients are “in urgent need of new treatment options.”
“More than half of patients with high-risk neuroblastoma do not respond to chemotherapy or radiation, or they respond initially, but develop a recurrence,” Westmoreland said. “These patients are in urgent need of new treatment options.”
In addition, Dr. Joseph Mazar, another author of the study and a research scientist at Nemours Children’s Health, posted a statement regarding the virus.
“With further validation, Zika virus could be an extremely effective bridge therapy for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma,” Mazar said. “We also see potential for Zika virus to be used to treat children and [even] adults with other cancers that express high levels of CD24.”
Neuroblastoma usually occurs in children under the age of 5 and there are typically about 700 to 800 cases every year.
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