What’s bad news for babies could be a lifesaver for adults with brain cancer.
Zika: the word spreads panic in pregnant women and those with small children. The mosquito-borne disease at the root of a worldwide outbreak in 2007 can cause excessive brain damage in babies growing in the womb, and also in young children with developing brains.
Surprisingly, a new positive side has been discovered in connection with the virus.
It’s been found that the virus can attack brain cancer with success. When administered to full-grown mice, Zika shrank aggressive brain tumors in the animals and left the rest of the brain untouched, researchers say.
It’s a welcome discovery, as some invasive cancers can’t be fought off fully with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Glioblastomas, the most common form of brain cancer in adults, can spread through the brain in ways that make it hard to tell where the cancer starts and the healthy tissue ends.
Zika works by targeting cells that reproduce in the brain, such as stem cells. Healthy babies have brains that are full of these, which is why Zika causes such horrible damage, in infants.
Adults, by comparison, have relatively few stem cells in their brain, protecting them from the havoc Zika can wreak. But when cancer settles into an adult brain, the scene changes. Cancer cells can reproduce rapidly. The silver lining in Zika is that it can target these cells and leave the rest of the brain unscathed, destroying the cancerous cells in its path.
Scientists say they plan on beginning human trials in about 18 months.