Dr Harry Bulstrode

Harnessing the Zika virus to tackle brain tumours

At our Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, neurosurgeon Dr Harry Bulstrode is aiming to change a foe into a friend by using the Zika virus to tackle brain tumours.

The Zika virus is usually harmless in adults, causing only mild symptoms that they recover from quickly. But if it infects a pregnant woman, it can target the fast-growing stem cells in the brain of the developing baby, causing the brain to not grow properly, known as microcephaly. Since cancerous brain tumours contain very similar stem cells, Dr Bulstrode wants to find out whether this virus could be harnessed as a potential treatment for these devastating diseases.

He’s testing this idea out in the lab, using brain tumour cells from patients grown both in dishes and in mice. If the virus appears to effectively target and kill the cells, Dr Bulstrode hopes to take this work forward and develop new treatments based on the virus. If successful, this could become a much-needed new option for people with these hard-to-treat diseases.

Dr Bulstrode received funding through our Pioneer Award for this project in 2017. Read more about his work and other innovative ideas we funded in our blog post.

Quote: ‘I’m hoping to learn from Zika virus how to attack invasive brain tumour stem cells while sparing normal brain tissue’

Brain (and spinal cord) tumours
Pre-clinical research

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Email: hb252@cam.ac.uk