Experiment harnesses Zika virus’s destructive power to fight adult brain cancer, researchers said on Tuesday.
The latest experiments show that the virus targets brain cancer stem cells, the kind that tend to survive chemotherapy and spread.
Zika virus is a virus that is mostly spread by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
Transmission is from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika yet.
Early studies have shown the mosquito-borne virus can destroy cells responsible for Glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer.
Glioblastoma affects 12,000 people per year in the United States
The standard treatment is chemotherapy and radiation, unfortunately most patients die within two years.
“It is so frustrating to treat a patient, only to see his or her tumor recur a few months later,” said Milan Chheda from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“We wondered whether nature could provide a weapon to target the cells most likely responsible for this return.”
The report in The Journal of Experimental Medicine reads:
“Injection of Zika virus or a saltwater placebo is directly into the brain tumors of 33 mice. Two weeks later – tumors are significantly smaller in the Zika-treated mice.
“These mice also survived “significantly longer than the ones given saltwater. More work is needed before the treatment can be safely attempted in humans.
“The virus would likely be injected directly into the brain during surgery to remove the primary tumor. Effects on the brain tissue of epilepsy patients – Non-cancerous brain cells unaffected.”
“We see Zika one day being used in combination with current therapies to eradicate the whole tumor,” said Chheda.