Researchers at the Washington Medical University in St. Louis, USA, have tested what happens to mice when they try to treat a brain tumor with the Zika virus.

Zika virus has been shown to activate immune cells that kill invasive tumor cells in the brains of mice. According to research, the results could lead to a new immunotherapy drug and boost the confidence of a long-term immune memory that will prevent the tumor from recurring for at least 18 months.

The mice were fitted with brain tumor cells and then one week later injected with the fast-growing tumor Zika virus, and sterile saliva was injected into the tumor of other mice for comparison. The virus has dramatically increased the chances of survival of animals:

It was raised from 10 percent to 63 percent for one cancer cell type and 37 percent for another cancer.

Further analysis shows that the virus has attracted a large number of immune cells, particularly so-called cytotoxic or killer T cells, which are carried close to the tumor by the body’s infected virus or cancer cells.

Most importantly, Zika treatment developed long-term immune memory. The researchers fitted the tumor to the other half of the rat brain one and a half years after the first tumor. All but one of the mice recovered from the tumor within a few weeks.

A JCI Insight A study in the journal Zika Virus suggests that the Zika virus may be important in the immunotherapy for a severe brain tumor called cleoplastoma. This method has been shown to be effective in treating tumors of the blood, skin and some other organs, but has so far been helpful to a certain extent for cleoplastoma.

“It spreads so fast that it cannot be stopped permanently with any intervention. The original tumor can be treated, but the cancer will return quickly and inevitably. By using the Zika virus, we can boost the immune system to respond to ineffective immunotherapy. Sada explained.

Cleoplastoma is the most common and invasive form of brain tumor. It is diagnosed in about 12,000 people a year in the United States, with an average life expectancy of 14 months.

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