Zika viruses could potentially be useful in the treatment of neuroblastoma and other cancers, according to new study published in PLOS ONE.
Even with intensive therapy, survival among neuroblastoma patients is poor, indicating a need for alternative treatments. To test the potential of Zika virus therapy, researchers infected a panel of cultured neuroblastoma cells, including both MYCN-amplified and non-MYCN-amplified cells, with Zika virus strain PRVABC59. They found that nearly all cell lines tested were “highly permissive to infection” and that cytopathic effects were induced by the infection within days, often leading to apoptosis-induced cell death.
Additionally, no significant differences were found in the pathology between MYCN-amplified vs non-MYCN-amplified cells, suggesting “that MYCN-amplification status may not be a determinant of Zika viral pathogenesis.” The researchers identified CD24 as a factor required for Zika viral permissiveness in neuroblastoma cells, as CD24 is expressed on the surface “of a variety of human tumor cells but is not expressed on most differentiated cells.” Their findings showed that complementation of CD24 expression led to the production of detectable levels of non-structural protein 1 expression following infection, as well as increases in viral titers and cytopathic effects.
“Given the need for alternative therapies in the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma, the benign side effects of a Zika viral infection use in conjunction with current treatment options can improve outcome and reduce the late effects that can complicate intense tumor treatment,” the authors write. In children and non-pregnant adults, 80% of Zika infections are asymptomatic and the vast majority of symptomatic infections are marked only by self-limiting rash, conjunctivitis, and fever.
Based on their findings the authors concluded that “therapeutic Zika virus infection of individuals with CD24-positive tumors could result in selective tumor cell infection and lysis, offering a potentially novel use for CD24 as a prognostic marker and Zika virus as treatment.” The data also raise the possibility that Zika therapy may be useful for other cancers, including other pediatric tumors and adult malignancies.
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