September 18, 2017Infectious Disease
Even with current treatments, patients with glioblastomas - a highly malignant type of brain tumor - tend to have poor survival rates. Glioblastomas grow aggressively from a mass of unspecialized cells and ZIKV is known to infect similar cells in the nervous systems of developing fetuses. According to an article published online in The Journal of Experimental Medicine (5 September 2017), the Zika virus (ZIKV) may infect and kill a specific type of brain cancer cell, while leaving normal adult brain tissue minimally affected. In the paper, the authors describe the impact of ZIKV on glioblastoma cells in both human tissue samples and mice.
In this laboratory study, the authors introduced ZIKV to glioblastoma tissue samples removed from cancer patients as part of their treatment, as well as to healthy human neural tissue cultures. After seven days, ZIKV had replicated in certain glioblastoma cells and prevented them from multiplying, while the ordinary neural tissue cultures remained largely uninfected. The authors also tested mice with glioblastomas, treating an experimental group with a mouse-adapted strain of ZIKV. Mice who received ZIKV survived longer than mice in the control group, and their tumors were significantly smaller than those in the control mice after one week.
The authors caution that ZIKV may behave differently when introduced to an active glioblastoma in a living person, and that even if further studies continue to yield promising results, any potential treatment derived from ZIKV would need many years of rigorous testing for safety and efficacy.