MINNEAPOLIS - The Zika virus. It became international news in 2015 when, through mosquitoes, infected mothers in the Caribbean and Latin America, gave birth to children with unusually small heads and brain damage.
A tragedy for sure, but it got a University of Minnesota cancer researcher Dr. Walter Low thinking.
Dr Low and his lab team discovered that neural stem cells used for brain development and some brain tumor stem cells have the same receptors.
So, if the Zika virus attacked neural stem cells it should do the same to brain tumors.
“So when we began to incubate these brain tumor cells with the Zika virus we found they were able to infect the brain tumor brain cells, “ said Dr. Low.
KIlling brain tumors with the Zika virus. It's a first of its kind study, funded in part, by the Tackle Cancer initiative.
“I would say within two years –if everything goes well, hopefully be able to write to the FDA for clinical trial and test this out on patients, “ said Dr. Low.
Camp Kesem, put on by U of M undergrad students, is not your ordinary summer camp.
It's a camp for kids who have parents, or primary caregivers in cancer remission, or undergoing treatment, or who have unfortunately passed away.
“Camp Kesem isn't a therapeutic camp –our goal is to have kids come and have fun, be a kid, with opportunities to talk about what going through if want too, “ said Elana Modl of UM Camp Kesem.
It started in 2012 with 30 children, this year 160 Minnesota kids attended Camp Kesem. Tackle Cancer helped make that happen for free.
“So through that money we were able to send 20 children to a free week of camp, “ said Modl.
J.A. Wedum serves patients in the last 6 months of their life.
The J.A.Wedum residential hospice is located in Brooklyn Park. It’s a place that allows family to be family, and not care givers. Over 50 percent of those who spend their final days at J.A. Wedum, are cancer patients.
So, to make it easier to move patients from the bed to a chair, Tackle Cancer money helped support the purchase of 12 reclining lift chairs.
“The reclining lift chair will go into a semi standing position when we transfer the patient into it –so not having to be lowered all the way down into the seat,” said Katie Rollag, J.A. Wedum Residential Hospice Manager.
The reclining lift chair makes moving patients both easier for the staff and safer for the patient.
“If we can do anything to increase the quality of the hospice patient stay, that's what we want to do,” said Rollag.
Dr Melissa Geller is onto something big. Her lab at the U-of-M is harnessing the body's own immune system to fight ovarian cancer using the body’s natural killer cells.
And, using another drug to uncloak the cancer tumor in order to allow the NK cells to work more efficiently.
“This is a disease of middle age women and so it's critical we're finding new hope and drugs for these patients at this point we can't cure these women who have advanced stage disease,” said Dr. Geller.
Her lab started a first-of-its-kind clinical trial just a few weeks ago and it's seeing promising results. And Tackle Cancer money, in part, is helping make a difference
“The money that was given to us from Tackle Cancer is really going to expedite things from the bench to the bedside to these women with ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Geller.
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