Life Imitating Art: Repurposing a Virus to Treat Deadly Glioblastoma

When I first read this story in Fortune about the Zika Virus potentially being used to treat a rare form of deadly brain cancer called glioblastoma, I immediately thought of the eerie first scene in I Am Legend.
While the original novel did use mosquitoes as the culprit, the virus Hollywood used was measles… and everyone turned into flesh-eating, zombie-like creatures. I think we have much higher hopes for this recent real-world news, however.

As reported yesterday, mice with brain tumors who were injected with Zika Virus showed significant reduction in tumor size, without any negative effects to surrounding cells.

The Zika Virus is spread through mosquitoes and in utero from a mother to her child. In adults, there can be almost no symptoms or mild symptoms like a fever and rash, that may not even last a week. However, it has been linked to causing brain defects in babies born from pregnant women affected with the virus. Rarely, it is also linked to onsets of GBS.

Glioblastoma is particularly deadly, as the tumor can make it’s own blood supply, enabling it to grow. To learn more about it, click here.

This new study reveals that since glioblastoma is incepted from stem cells, and Zika attacks stem cells (which is what fetal brains are made up of, and adult brains generally are not), it could be a realistic and legitimate line of attack against the often fatal cancer. Researchers are so hopeful, they plan to start human trials within two years.

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell is one of PW's consultants and patient editors. She has lived with late-stage, chronic Lyme and POTS since circa 2002. She has also served as a caregiver to close family members with late-stage, chronic Lyme. Before diagnosis, she served as a business consultant for a large corporation and PM for a small digital branding agency. Now, she is proactive in the rare and neurological disease community, spreading awareness and advising on matters of health and lifestyle when living with a chronic illness.

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