In the fight against brain cancer, Brazilian scientists may have discovered a new form of treatment based on the Zika virus. In a preclinical study, it was possible to destroy brain tumors with only three injections, developed with the infectious agent, and no neurological damage was observed in the animals. In the future, the discovery could lead to a revolutionary therapy for humans.
Published in the scientific journal Viruses, the initial study against cancer was developed by scientists at the Center for the Study of the Human Genome and Stem Cells (CEGH-CEL) of the University of São Paulo (USP). The next validation step will involve testing participation in dogs.
While the research may still take years to complete, the findings open up good prospects for the use of virotherapy in central nervous system (CNS) tumors. According to the National Cancer Institute (Inca), 11 thousand new cases of the disease were registered in Brazil in 2020.
Study of the Zika virus against cancer
During the published trials, the researchers applied the three doses of the Zika virus injection intraperitoneally, and the applications respected the same time interval between doses. According to the authors, the effects of the therapy were tolerated and, during the treatment, the animals continued to feed, did not lose weight and maintained good clinical conditions.
In addition, the research team also injected Zika into a brain organoid — a form of organ similar to the human brain created. in vitro, from stem cells — and it was possible to observe that the virus prevented the progression of the tumor, even reducing it.
According to the study authors, in both models — in animals and in vitro — the treatment yielded positive results. Even in the animal model, proteins that regulate the immune response (cytokines) suppressed the progression of the tumor and there was an increase in the migration of defense cells to the brain affected by cancer, which activated the immune system against cancer cells.
Challenges of cancer research
Now, the team of researchers must start a new stage of research, in which dogs affected by brain tumors will be recruited. The idea is to search for animals of different breeds and sizes, giving greater diversity to the possible results obtained.
“Dogs are extremely important models before we thought about testing in patients, as they have tumors very similar to humans and a preserved immune system. It will be possible to analyze different tumors”, explained Mayana Zatz, professor at the Institute of Biosciences (IB) at USP and coordinator of the CEGH-CEL — a Center for Research, Innovation and Diffusion (Cepid) of the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo (FAPESP).
To access the full study on cancer Zika virus injections published in the journal Viruses, click here.
Source: Jornal da USP