3D Printing

NIH Grants $141K to Develop 3D Printed Device to Deliver Anti-Cancer Drugs

With medicine being a field to most immediately disrupted by 3D printing technology, now the medical community is getting behind the technology to create new solutions to old problems. This is particularly evidenced by news that Florida Atlantic University has just received a grant from the National Institute of Health to develop a 3D printed stent to treat esophageal cancer.

Traditional stent pictured 3D Printed Device to Deliver Anti-Cancer Drugs

While it is the eighth most common form of cancer, the treatment of esophageal cancer has so far proven difficult, with 50 to 60 percent of patients ineligible for surgery due to late tumor detection or metastases that cannot be removed surgically.  In turn, inoperable esophageal cancers are treated with an implanted metal mesh stent.  Unfortunately, these devices can cause such complications as bleeding, perforation, chest pain, and tumor ingrowth.  For this reason, Dr. Yunqing (Kevin) Kang, Ph.D., a bioengineer in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Florida Atlantic University, has been awarded a $141,743 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to create a new stent that could change the way this cancer is treated.

With the funds, Dr. Kang, the principal investigator and assistant professor of biomaterials and regenerative medicine in FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, will develop a biodegradable polymer stent that not only prevents the aforementioned complications associated with metal stents, but will also be capable of delivering anti-cancer drugs for treating esophageal tumors and prevent tumor tissue ingrowth.

kevin_kang fau 3D printed stent for esophogus cancer

To create the stent, Dr. Kang and his team will be 3D printing the device from biodegradable elastomeric polymer materials.  This will allow the device to maintain rigidity, while also ensuring that it is flexible enough to contract with the esophagus.  And, using the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel (PTX), the stent will also treat the cancer. And, while it’s not explicitly stated in the news release, it’s quite possible that these stents could be customized to the patients by creating them based off of MRI or CT scans.

Dr. Kang says that this sort of drug delivery approach was previously impossible, “Currently, there are no stents that are available in a clinical setting that have the ability of preventing or decreasing the complications, and at the same time providing the capability of delivering cancer therapy drugs.”  He continues, “Because our materials will be made from biodegradable polymer, they will dissolve and disappear after the stent is surgically placed into the patient’s esophagus. Once treatment is completed, it won’t be necessary for the surgeon to remove the stent, making the process and treatment much more comfortable for the patient.”

Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, Dean of FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, adds, “Dr. Kang’s technology is a game changer for how esophageal cancer could be treated in the future. The physiochemical, drug-release and biocompatibility properties of this stent could have a wider impact on the treatment of esophageal cancer and the need for tissue-engineered stents for esophagus regeneration after surgical removal.”

This is excellent news for the approximately 16,980 adults that will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer this year, according to Cancer.net Hopefully, Dr. Kang’s research will not only give further credence to the potential of 3D printing in the medical field, but help save some lives, as well. And, if this device can be used to treat esophageal cancer, it may be possible that similar devices could be used to treat other cancers, too.