Breaking News

Zika Vaccine Candidate Battles Brain Cancer

March 11, 2024 • 5:50 pm CDT
Duke-NUS Medical School
(Precision Vaccinations News)

Scientists from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) have developed a new approach using the Zika virus to destroy brain cancer cells and inhibit tumor growth while sparing healthy cells.

Using Zika virus vaccine candidates developed at Duke-NUS, the team discovered how these strains target rapidly proliferating cells over mature cells—making them an ideal option to target fast-growing cancerous cells in the adult brain.

Zika virus is one such option in early development. The Duke-NUS team used Zika virus live-attenuated vaccine (ZIKV-LAV) strains, which are "weakened" viruses with limited ability to infect healthy cells but can still increase and spread within a tumor mass.

"We selected Zika virus because it naturally infects rapidly multiplying cells in the brain, allowing us to reach cancer cells that are traditionally difficult to target. Our ZIKV-LAV strains also replicate themselves in brain cancer cells, making this a living therapy that can spread and attack neighboring diseased cells," said Dr. Carla Bianca Luena Victorio, first author of the paper and Senior Research Fellow at the Cancer & Stem Cell Biology Programme at Duke-NUS, in a press release on March 8, 2024.

Their study's findings, published in the Journal of Translational Medicine in February 2024, potentially offer a new treatment alternative for brain cancer patients who currently have a poor prognosis.

Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common malignant brain cancer, with more than 300,000 patients diagnosed annually worldwide. Survival rates for such patients are poor (around 15 months), mainly due to the high incidence of tumor recurrence and limited treatment options.

For such patients, oncolytic virotherapy—or the use of engineered viruses to infect and kill cancer cells—may address the current therapeutic challenges.

Separately, several Zika vaccine candidates are conducting clinical research as of March 2024.

A preventive vaccine targeting Zika is in demand since 36,738 Zika cases were reported in 2023.

In the Americas, the highest proportion of Zika cases was reported in Brazil (35,041), followed by Bolivia, Belize, Columbia, Paraguay, and Venezuela. 

Our Trust Standards: Medical Advisory Committee