HealthDay News — Zika virus (ZIKV) is an oncolytic virus that preferentially targets glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs), according to a study published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Zhe Zhu, MD, PhD, from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla, and colleagues examined the utility of oncolytic virus therapy against glioblastoma with ZIKV, which induces cell death and differentiation of neural precursor cells in the developing fetus.

The researchers found that relative to differentiated tumor progeny or normal neuronal cells, ZIKV preferentially infected and killed GSCs. 

West Nile Virus indiscriminately killed tumor and normal neural cells, indicating that the effects against GSCs were not a general property of neurotropic flaviviruses. Patient-derived GSCs grown in culture and in organoids were potently depleted by ZIKV. When the tumor was inoculated with a murine-adapted strain of ZIKV, mice with glioblastoma survived substantially longer and at greater rates.

“Our results suggest that ZIKV is an oncolytic virus that can preferentially target GSCs, and thus, genetically modified strains that further optimize safety could have therapeutic efficacy for adult glioblastoma patients,” the authors write.

One author disclosed ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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Zhu Z, Gorman MJ, McKenzie LD, et al. Zika virus has oncolytic activity against glioblastoma stem cells. J Exp Med. 2017 Oct 2;214(10):3145.