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Can Zika Help Treat Aggressive Form Of Brain Cancer?

20 May 2017, 8:51 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
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Zika is no longer a global health emergency but can it be turned into a remedy? Researchers from the UK plan to test the possibility of using Zika virus to treat glioblastoma.  ( Pixabay )

Brazil's terror and distress over the 2016 zika outbreak, which the World Health Organization considered as a global health emergency, finally ended on May 11 when the Health Ministry reported a significant drop in cases of zika and microcephaly in the country.

Since the mosquito-borne zika virus is no longer a huge concern at this point in time and much has been discovered about the disease, researchers from the United Kingdom have begun to look at the virus in a new light: as treatment against another deadly disease.

The idea is alarming but could zika actually be a solution to Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)-the most aggressive form of brain cancer? Research says it's possible.

From Disease To Medicine

Just as a study claimed that a malaria drug could be an effective treatment for brain cancer, researchers are now looking at the possibility that zika virus can also be an effective tool in treating GBM.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, with funding from Cancer Research U.K., are now preparing to test the effect of zika virus on GBM tumor cells.

According to Cancer Research UK, studies have found that while zika causes severe disability and deformities in babies by attacking its developing brain during pregnancy, the virus only exhibits mild flu-like symptoms in adults with fully formed brains.

It was because of this observation that led neurosurgeon and cancer research scientist Dr. Harry Bulstrode and his team to believe that zika can cross the blood-brain barrier and can be an effective tool in treating GBM.

"What Dr. Bulstrode did was to put these two bits of information together and consider the possibility that the virus could be used to target the stem cells of brain tumors, without causing damage to the healthy surrounding cells," Cancer Research UK Senior Science Information Officer Justine Alford explains.

Preliminary Experiments

Cancer Research UK says that the study is still in its initial stages so it is still too soon to predict if Dr. Bulstrode's theory is correct.

As part of the initial stage, Dr. Bulstrode's team will use tumor cells in the laboratory and in mice to observe how zika will affect it. The team will then attempt to develop possible treatments from the results.

"If we can learn lessons from Zika's ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and target brain stem cells selectively, we could be holding the key to future treatments," Dr. Bulstrode said.

If the experiments return positive results, it could pave the way to further decrease cancer death rates not only in the United States but all over the globe.

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