Brazilian discovery opens the door to use this dreaded microcephaly virus against one of the most common tumors in men
After pioneering in revealing the potential of zika to fight tumors in the brain, a group from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) led by Professor Rodrigo Ramos Catharino showed that the virus can also be a weapon against prostate cancer. Through laboratory experiments, scientists have observed that this pathogen is capable of inhibiting the proliferation of tumor cells in the prostate. The results of the research, supported by Fapesp, were published in the magazine Scientific Reports.
“The next step of the investigation involves animal testing. If the results are positive, we intend to seek partnerships with companies to enable clinical trials in humans, ”said Catharino, a professor at Unicamp's Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and coordinator of the Innovare Laboratory of Biomarkers.
The line of research coordinated by Catharino began in 2015, when the relationship between the Zika epidemic and the increase in microcephaly cases in the northeastern states was discovered. After studies confirmed the pathogen's ability to infect and destroy neural progenitor cells – which in developing fetuses give rise to different brain cell types – the scientists devised testing the virus on glioblastoma strains, the most common and aggressive type. of central nervous system cancer in adults.
"As sexual transmission of Zika and the virus's preference for infecting reproductive cells has also been confirmed, we have now decided to test its effect against prostate cancer," said Dr. Fapesp Jeany Delafiori, a Ph.D. student under Catharino's guidance.
The work has been conducted with the support of the Obesity and Comorbidity Research Center (OCRC), a FAPESP CEPID at Unicamp.
How to make Zika an ally against cancer
In a study released recently, also in the Scientific Reports, Catharino's group found that markers of neurological inflammation could be found in the saliva of babies born with microcephaly – and whose mothers were diagnosed with Zika during pregnancy – up to at least two years after delivery.
"In the wild version, therefore, the virus would have undesirable effects and could not be used as therapy," Catharino explained. The researchers then decided to test whether the inactivating process of Zika, which contains such damage, would maintain the ability to destroy tumor cells.
Among other procedures, viruses were heated at 56 ° C for one hour to inhibit the potential for infection. The next step was to place a culture of prostate cancer cells in contact with the inactivated Zika and, after 24 and 48 hours, compare with another group of tumor cells.
"In the analysis made after 48h, the strain that came in contact with the inactivated virus showed a 50% lower growth than the control strain," said Delafiori. That is, cancer proliferated much less, which justifies continuing with the investigations.
This content is from Fapesp Agency. You can check out the original report here.