Scientists Use Zika Virus to Shrink Cancerous Brain Tumors in Mice

According to new research, the Zika virus may be useful in treating brain cancer

Zika Virus May Be Treatment For Brain Cancer, Scientists Say

"Zika targets fetal neuroprogenitor stem cells". This a fatal and also the most common type of brain cancer.

Injecting a virus known to cause brain defects into the brain sounds insane, but researchers believe it will be safer in adults since their brain lacks the primarily types of cells Zika likes to target. But they are inside brain tumors, especially Glioblastoma. After treatment, these cells can keep on growing and dividing, forming new cancers and allowing tumors to regrow.

The Zika virus officially became a global emergency by the World Health Organization in 2016 as cases spread across 70 different countries.

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"It looks like there's a silver lining to Zika".

According to US Scientists, the harmful Zika virus that causes brain damage in babies may be able to offer a new treatment for adult brain cancer, Glioblastoma. Cancer stem cells share similarities with these cells. It seems the virus targets tumor stem cells over both non-stem cancer cells and healthy cells. Neural progenitor cells are also specifically targeted and killed by the Zika virus.

The team tested the virus on 18 mice with the equivalent of glioblastomas, comparing them against 15 that were injected with a saltwater control. The Zika-treated mice also lived longer than the ones who received a placebo. Two weeks after treatment, the tumours were significantly smaller in the Zika-infected mice.

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In a separate experiment, the researchers observed the virus's effects in living animals.

The researchers explained that if Zika was used in people, it would have to be injected into the brain, most likely during surgery to remove the primary tumour.

"We're going to introduce additional mutations to sensitise the virus even more to the innate immune response and prevent the infection from spreading", says Diamond. Once transformed, the cells grow and multiply in abnormal ways. They found that although the original strain of the virus was more potent, the mutant strain still succeeded in killing cancerous cells. New research proves that it can be used to counter a specific type of brain cancer cell, without gravely affecting normal adult brain tissue.

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In this laboratory study, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, the Cleveland Clinic, the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston introduced ZIKV to glioblastoma tissue samples removed from cancer patients as part of their treatment, as well as to healthy human neural tissue cultures. Current study findings are available in a paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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