From villain to possible ally: Zika virus may help treat brain cancer

From villain to possible ally: Zika virus may help treat brain cancer


The Zika virus sparked widespread concern in United States last year and this year the reported cases have exceeded 5K. The news caught the attention of the media and authorities, and several companies started working on a vaccine. New research, however, shows that the cause of problems in newborns may be a hope against cancer.

Researchers at four American universities (California, Cleveland, Texas, and Washington) have teamed up in a study that gives clues that the Zika virus may be a treatment option for glioblastoma, the most common brain cancer in the United States. They found that the virus can neutralize the birth of new cancer cells.

Glioblastoma is usually cured with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, but within a matter of months, the tumor returns. The Zika virus could prevent this by attacking the stem cells responsible for the reproduction of cancer cells, which behave in a manner similar to neuroprogenitors.

It is good to note that microcephaly is caused because the virus attacks these cells still in the growth stage, disrupting the development of the central nervous system. This danger does not exist in adult patients, who, moreover, would undergo a controlled treatment.

The researchers’ idea, in fact, is to combine treatments. The Zika virus ignores the already developed carcinogenic cells, but these can continue to be eliminated with conventional treatments. There, the virus would come in to stop the development of new ones.

For the time being, tests were performed with stem cells removed from patients with this specific type of cancer and also in mice with the tumor. In the first case, it was possible to verify that the Zika virus can kill the cells, while in the second it was responsible for reducing the size of the tumor.

Research is still in the study stage, and there is no prediction for the initiation of experimental treatments in human patients. However, since Zika does not present very serious risks to an adult human, it is hoped that it will not be long before this happens.

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I cover technology, utilities and biotechnology for Markets Morning, and I help out occasionally with other industry sectors. I've written about investment and personal finance topics for more than 20 years from a lowly copywriter to editor-in-chief, so I've done a little bit of everything. For what it's worth, I have a BA from Duke University and an MBA from Rollins College. I'm married with one daughter, and that's worth more than everything else put together.