3D Printed Tumor Models Engineered to Test Cancer Treatments

Has the future arrived? 3D printing has turned many industries upside down with its capabilities and it is even closer to hitting healthcare and research with significant clinical results. Now scientists are experimenting with engineering 3D printed cancer tumor models for testing various treatment options. Could this finally lead us to the cure?


3D Printing Human Cells

3D printers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Wondering how they actually work? These objects are generated by layering successive thin sheets of materials stacked on top of each other to create a physical structure, and in this case the ink is living cells. 

The Department of Urology at Tulane University School of Medicine has been working with 3D printing technology to create solid organ tissue to aid in patient understanding, surgery selection, medical student and resident education, surgical simulation, and planning and improving surgical outcomes.


They've now generated one of their first 3D printed tumor models of a kidney.

"We found that analyzing these types of models prior to performing surgery enhanced our ability to conduct organ-sparing surgery. This process works particularly well with respect to robotic surgery since the physical manipulation of the model helps restore the surgeon’s lost sense of tactile sensation of the organ of interest," said assistant professor of Urology, Dr. Jonathan Silberstein. 

3D Printing's Effect on Cancer Research

The field of cancer research is set to undergo a huge breakthrough due to the capabilities of 3D printing. One use for 3D printing developed at the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden National Health Service Foundation Trust, in London. Researchers worked to produce models of tumors to help calculate the dosage of radiation delivered to a tumor. Originally, these models were handmade, but 3D printing improves the accuracy of radiation doses.

Some scientists are evaluating 3D printed tumor models as a revolutionary development in regards to assessing cancer treatment options for many diseases. By incorporating actual living cells, these tumor models could further the research around treating cancer and which methods are preferred.