Researchers report that they think they might be able to harness the virus’ attraction to developing brain cells — instead of adult brain cells — as a potential treatment for a deadly type of brain cancer.
In lab and animal experiments, scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Diego, showed — that the virus was able to target and destroy stem cells that drive the growth of a deadly and common type of brain tumor, known as a glioblastoma.
“Our study is a first step towards the development of safe and effective strains of Zika virus that could become important tools in neuro-oncology and the treatment of glioblastoma,” said study co-leader Michael Diamond, from Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis.
“However, public health concerns will need to be addressed through pre-clinical testing and evaluations of the strains’ ability to disseminate or revert to more virulent forms,” he said.
The research is in the early stages, and experiments that look promising in animal research don’t always turn out as well in humans.
The findings were published Sept. 5 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Most people with a gliobastoma die within two years of being diagnosed, researchers said.
The stem cells that fuel these tumors are difficult to kill because they are able to avoid the immune system’s natural defenses. These developing cells are also resistant to existing treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Even if the tumor