A dangerous virus which can give babies brain damage might offer a surprising new form of treatment for brain cancer in adults, say U.S. scientists.
Up to this point, Zika has been only seen as a health threat and not a remedy. However, recent research shows that the virus can be used to selectively infect as well as kill cancerous cells that are hard to treat in the brains of adults.
Injections of Zika shrank aggressive tumors in mice that were fully grown, yet left other cells in the brain unharmed.
Trials using humans are still far off, but medical experts believe that the Zika virus holds the potential to be injected into human brains at the time of surgery to remove tumors that are life-threatening.
The treatment using Zika appears to work using samples of human cells in laboratories.
Many different forms of brain cancer exist, but the most common amongst adults is Glioblastomas and is one of the hardest to treat.
The cells are fast growing and diffuse which means they spread quickly through the brain which makes it difficult to see where a tumor ends and healthy tissue begins.
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery might not be sufficient to remove the invasive cancers.
However, the recent research, in mice and donated samples of brain tissue, shows that Zika therapy might kill cells which tend to be resistant to treatments currently being used.
It is believed that the glioblastoma cells are able to continue growing and dividing producing tumor cells even following aggressive treatment.
Medical experts however believe that few stem cells exist in adults and that means the Zika treatment should help destroy just the cancer causing brain cells with little collateral damage.
As an additional precaution for safety, researchers from the University of California San Diego medical school and Washington University have started modifying the Zika virus to make it tamer than in its regular form.
One researcher said that after a few additional changes are made he believes it will be impossible for Zika to overcome them and cause the disease.
He added that he hopes to start trials in humans within the next 18 months. The use of viruses in fighting cancer is not anything new, but using the Zika virus is.
Similar trials using the Zika virus are being started by University of Cambridge scientists in the UK.