Up until now, cancer researchers have been limited to testing treatments within the confines and limitations of petri dishes. But now, a team at Drexel have developed a new way of creating live tumors using 3d printing techniques that grow and behave much more like real cancerous tumors in patients. These new lab specimens will provide researchers with better insight and more accurate measures of treatment efficacy. From Drexel:
Using a mixture of cervical cancer cells and a hydrogel substance that resembles an ointment balm, Sun can print out a tumor model that can be used for studying their growth and response to treatment. This living model will give cancer researchers a better look at how tumors behave and a more accurate measure of how they respond to treatment.
“This is the first time to report that one can build a 3D in vitro tumor model through 3D Printing technology,” said Sun, the director of Drexel’s research center at the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute. “This may lead to a new paradigm for cancer research and for individual cancer therapies. We have developed a technological platform and would like to work with biologists and pathologists to encourage them to use the developed platform for 3D biology and disease studies.”
While researchers have been able to make cell models and tissues using rapid prototyping methods for some time, Sun’s lab, is the first to produce a living 3D tumor model through additive manufacturing –also known as 3D printing. In a study published in the journal Biofabrication in April, Sun reports a procedure his team developed for growing research-grade models of cervical cancer tumors.
Cancer researchers are aware that working with two-dimensional samples comes with inherent limitations. For example, tumors in the body have a much different surface area, shape and cellular composition than samples grown in a lab, thus data from tests of cancer treatments will differ from the reaction of an actual tumor to the drugs. But until now, these in vitro cell cultures were their best option.
“Two-dimensional cell culture models are traditionally used for biology study and drug screening,” Sun said. “However, two-dimensional culture models can not represent true 3D physiological tissues so it lacks the microenvironment characteristics of natural 3D tissues in vivo. This inherent inadequacy leads to shortcomings in cancer research and anti-tumor drug development. On the other hand, 3D tumor models can represent true tumor 3D pathological organizations and will lead to a new paradigm for cancer study.”