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19 May 2017, 06:12 | Todd Saunders
Dr Iain Foulkes, director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: "We urgently need new insights and treatments to tackle glioblastomas, one of the most common and hard to treat forms of brain tumours".
A new study led by Colorado State University researchers found that Aedes aegypti, the primary mosquito that carries Zika virus, might also transmit chikungunya and dengue viruses with one bite.
Glioblastoma cells seem to be the best test subject for this as they so closely resemble those which can be seen in the brain that is still in the process of development. This membrane barrier is highly selective and acts as a shield from potentially toxic substances.
While the impact of Zika on the developing brain is devastating, it does not appear to affect fully developed brains.
Experts say existing treatments have to be given at low doses to avoid damaging healthy tissue.
The research, using tumour cells in the laboratory and in mice, will see if the virus can destroy cancer cells. The results of the experiments will suggest how the virus is targeting the cells and if the testing can be progressed to a more complex stage.
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"We hope to show that the Zika virus can slow down brain tumour growth in tests in the lab", Bulstrode added.
In order for Zika virus to have this effect, it has to pass the blood brain barrier which is very important when it comes to the treatment of brain tumors. It's impossible to tell how long it will be before the first results.
What is the threat for people diagnosed with a coinfection?
"This research is exactly the sort of project we want to spark through Cancer Research UK's Pioneer Awards". "If the scientists do find out that Zika could be a promising treatment for glioblastoma, however, perhaps this knowledge could be applied to the treatment of other brain tumors".
"It's also possible that what the researchers discover could be applied more broadly to stem cells-cells that are treatment-resistant and can cause the disease to return-in other types of cancer".
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