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Virus Fighting Cancer? Could It Work?

In 2015, the Zika outbreak in Brazil was frightening, especially with the realization that it could cause microcephaly in the unborn children of mothers that contracted Zika. However, it was just this ailment that caught the attention of genetic and biological researchers at the University of Sao Paulo.

If you remember, as Zika made its way through the news, pictures of children with underdeveloped heads began to surface. Microcephaly targets the craniums of children and the Zika virus has been determined a cause of this. So as other scientists in Brazil have been searching for ways to fight Zika, be it by vaccine or elimination of the mosquitoes that carry it, these researchers at USP have been focusing on what good might come from this virus in the form of fighting brain cancer.

Zika Might Fight Brain Cancer

The researchers wondered that if Zika attacked a developing brain, might it also attack developing brain tumors. “There’s a major effort to study viruses for their potential in treating illness,” Oswaldo K. Okamoto, a biologist and cancer researcher at USP’s department of genetics and evolutionary biology told Mac Margolis of

The group began the experiment by introducing the virus to cancerous cells in the nervous systems of mice. The virus actually went straight to the cancer cells skipping the healthy tissue. The cancerous mice suffered fewer, smaller tumors and some even went into remission while the mice in the control group all died. They tried using the Zika virus to fight other cancers but it seems that it is only effective on brain cancers. The exciting part is it appeared to work aggressively against childhood brain cancers that have been resistant against the normal cancer treatments such as chemotherapy in the past.

Using viruses to fight disease is not new, but the levels at which it is being researched are growing. What scientists call oncolytic viruses, either naturally or with some reinventing in the lab, fight cancers well because they are resilient and strong. The Washington University School of Medicine is also weighing on this research and finding that the Zika virus goes straight in the fight cancer stem cells which are also known for their resilience.

The Future of Cancer Research

There is a long way to go with this kind of research, but it is being closely followed. Things happen much faster than they did in years past and the results they are getting so far are incredibly hopeful. Wouldn’t it be great for something that has caused much heartbreak to be turned into a lifesaver somehow?

At Mosquito Squad of Franklin & Framingham, we love how science can repurpose something bad and make it good. We are going to continue to watch this and keep you informed as well. The diseases that mosquitoes carry are always creating new information sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, so we make it our responsibility to watch for both. We also take protecting our clients just as seriously and our mosquito treatment plans do just that. Whether you have questions about the information we provide for you here or questions about our mosquito control services we would love to hear from you. Call today!