Zika has been found to potentially kill deadly cancer cells
New research published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that the Zika virus can destroy cancer stem cells resistant to traditional treatment. While in infants Zika can cause disastrous consequences, such as microcephaly, the disease could one day be used to stop the progression of glioblastoma.
The study, conducted by scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine indicates that the lethal virus has destructive effects over the malignant brain cancer cells, by targeting the neuroprogenitor cells.
“We showed that Zika virus can kill the kind of glioblastoma cells that tend to be resistant to current treatments and lead to death,” explained Michael S. Diamond, the co-senior author of the study.
With each year almost 12.000 people being diagnosed with the glioblastoma disease in the U.S. only and the standard treatment being very aggressive, highly risky and often the disease is recurrent, finding a cure for it is significantly important for the medical world.
As showed by the researchers, the Zika virus has a specific tropism for cancer stem cells, while not having effect on other tumor cells. Therefore, the Zika virus treatment could successfully complement the traditional treatment featuring chemotherapy and radiotherapy, in order to eradicate the entire tumor.
As scary as it may sound, the Zika virus natural infection in adults only causes mild symptoms and only targets the neuroprogenitor cells, which are rare in the adult brain. The Zika virus should therefore be injected directly into the brain during the primary tumor removal surgery. Moreover, for safety reasons, the scientists mutated the virus and created a weaker one that still fights the tumor cells.
“We’re going to introduce additional mutations to sensitize the virus even more to the innate immune response and prevent the infection from spreading. Once we add a few more changes, I think it’s going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease,” Professor Diamond concluded.