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Study: Zika virus could be used to treat cancer that killed John McCain

Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 09:08:08-04

A virus that spread rapidly in 2015 is showing signs that it may have the potential to one day treat the aggressive form of brain cancer that killed Senator John McCain.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus was declared a world health emergency over its ability to cause birth defects in pregnant women. The majority of people infected experienced mild illness, including fever, rash and joint pain.

According to a study in the journal mBio, researchers set vaccines against the virus, which targets neural cells, against mice that had been injected with glioblastoma cells.

Senator McCain announced his glioblastoma diagnosis in July 2017 and died last month at the age of 81. The disease is considered the deadliest type of brain tumor and is currently considered incurable because of its tendency to return after traditional treatment methods, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

The study reported that the virus was successful in targeting cells within the tumor, prolonging the median life expectancy of the animals by at least two weeks.

An application for the vaccine-based treatment may involve injecting patients with the Zika vaccine before surgery, allowing the virus to hunt down specific cells within the tumor before it is removed, the magazine Newsweek reported.

Researchers cautioned that the study is only one step toward the development of a Zika-based treatment and that more work needs to be done to ensure the virus has no harmful neurological side effects.