Zika Vaccine May Destroy Glioblastoma

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston altered a Zika vaccine to target and destroy the cancerous brain cells in mice
galveston ferry boat
(Precision Vaccinations News)

New pre-human research has successfully harnessed a Zika virus vaccine to target and kill the brain cancer known as glioblastoma.  

This innovative research at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) effectively altered a Zika vaccine to target and destroy the cancerous brain cells in mice, but not healthy cells.

"These findings represent major progress toward developing the Zika vaccine as a safe and effective virotherapeutic treatment for human glioblastoma," said UTMB's Pei-Yong Shi, Ph.D.  professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Glioblastoma is a cancer of the glial cells enmeshed throughout the brain that provide structure, nutrition, and oxygen for the nerve cells. The tumor recurrence is likely due to cancerous glioblastoma stem cells that hide in brain tissue close to the tumor mass even after surgery.

This research in mice is important since the Zika virus can cause microcephaly, a condition where the fetal brain doesn't fully develop when a pregnant woman is infected with the virus.

Microcephaly likely develops because Zika virus targets stem cells in the fetal brain, said these UTMB researchers in a press release.

These observations led Dr. Shi and his colleagues at UTMB and in China, to the conclusion that the Zika vaccine caused no neurological symptoms or behavioral abnormalities, while significantly reducing tumor growth and prolonging survival.

"The current study takes advantage of our recently developed Zika vaccine candidate," Dr. Shi said.

In May 2016, UTMB was the first to genetically engineer a clone of the Zika virus strain, a development that could expedite many aspects of Zika research, including vaccine and therapeutics development. 

"We will continue to improve the therapeutic potential of this platform by increasing the safety and increasing the specific cancer-killing activity. It is exciting to turn the "bad" side of the virus into cancer treatment." 

The other authors of this research include UTMB's Chao Shan and Xuping Xie as well as Qi Chen, Jin Wu, Qing Ye, Chunfeng Li, Xiao-Feng Li, Xiaoling Qin, Tongyang Zhao and Cheng-Feng Qin from the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Beijing, China; Feng Ma and Dapei Li from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College; Qian Zhu, Yan Wu and Haitao Wu from the Beijing Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, China; Xiaoyan Zhan and Jianghong Man from the National Center of Biomedical Analysis, Beijing, China.

No financial conflicts of interest were disclosed.

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