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Zika virus kills brain cancer stem cells, says UC San Diego Health study

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Posted at 4:19 PM, Sep 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 14:56:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Zika virus targets and kills brain cancer stem cells, according to a University of California San Diego Health and Washington University School of Medicine study.

Zika, which can cause severe neurological damage in developing fetuses, might be a new tool for improving survival rates in patients with glioblastomas, said UCSD Health.

“The Zika virus specifically targets neuroprogenitor cells in fetal and adult brains. Our research shows it also selectively targets and kills cancer stem cells, which tend to be resistant to standard treatments and a big reason why glioblastomas recur after surgery and result in shorter patient survival rates,” said Jeremy Rich, MD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and co-author of the study.

The team of researchers found that Zika attacked the tumor's stem cells, which are largely unaffected by standart treatment.

"We see Zika one day being used in combination with current therapies to eradicate the whole tumor," said Milan Chheda, MD, of Washington University.

The scientists note that the idea of injecting a virus into patient's brains seems alarming, but they say Zika may prove a safe therapy with further testing because the cells usually targeted by Zika are rare in adults.

This year, more than 12,000 Americans will be diagnosed with glioblastomas, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. The type of cancer is highly malignant and the two-year survival rate is 30 percent.