If you were to ask me yesterday how you would use 3D printing to cure cancer I probably would have guessed that you would 3D print heavy objects and throw them at cancer patients hoping it would spontaneously cure them. But, thankfully, I’m neither a medical doctor nor a cancer researcher because what they came up with is a much more effective use of the technology.
A group of British researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in London have 3D printed replicas of cancerous body parts using CT scans and are using them to better target the tumors with more effective treatments. The researchers fill the 3D printed replicas with liquid so they can track how it flows through the affected area of the body. The liquid represents a new type of cancer fighting drug called radiopharmaceuticals.
The interest in radiopharmaceuticals was started by a new prostate cancer treatment called Xofigo. Radiopharmaceuticals are drug solutions containing very specific amounts of radioactive material that can be ingested as a pill, injected intravenously or placed directly in the affected area via surgery. The radioactive material needs to be strictly controlled to ensure that the amount used will only kill the cancerous material without causing any permanent damage to the rest of the patients body.
The head of radioisotope physics for the Institute of Cancer Research in London believes that by tracking the drugs movement through the replica tissue, doctors can optimise the doses causing the maximum amount of damage to the cancer cells without harming the surrounding tissue. “If we personalize treatment according to the radiation dose delivered to the tumor, then we should have a better outcome,” he explained. “I think it will have a huge impact.”
3D printing technology has applications for virtually every major industry in the world, including the aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, product development and jewelry industries. And as large of an impact as it is having on those types of business, the potential impact for medical applications is almost limitless. While there may not be a cure for cancer in our lifetimes, thanks to a Stratasys 3D printer it may help doctors prevent it from taking away more of our loved ones.