Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that the harmful Zika virus could be an effective treatment for adult brain cancer.
The Zika virus is spread through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitos. While many do not experience any symptoms from the disease, it can severely affect babies in the womb, resulting in birth defects and undeveloped brains. At present there is no vaccine for the virus.
Now, new research has found that the Zika virus has the ability to infect and destroy aggressive tumours in the brain. Lab tests on mice revealed that an injection of the virus shrank cancer cells without harming normal cells. While human subjects have not yet been tested, a trial on human cell samples had positive results. “There’s a silver lining to Zika,” says Dr Michael Diamond. “This virus that targets cells that are very important for brain growth in babies, we could use that now to target growing tumours.”
Scientists believe that the Zika virus will be able to kill tumours that current cancer treatments – radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery – cannot always destroy. To ensure the virus won’t cause damage to healthy brain cells, researchers are modifying the virus to mitigate its harsh qualities.
Tests on human subjects are expected to begin in the next year and a half.