JERUSALEM, Israel – Researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University say they have made a breakthrough in the battle against cancer by developing technology that can create a model of an entire active tumor using a 3D printer. They hope doctors can use these 3D models to find better cancer treatments for patients and accelerate the discovery of new drugs.
The 3D printed models are created by taking cancerous samples from the patient’s body during surgery. The extracted tissue is then used to create a 3D model of the tumor that matches the patient’s MRI scans.
The 3D printed tumor “includes a complex system of blood vessel-like tubes through which blood cells and drugs can flow, simulating a real tumor,” Tel Aviv University said in a press release.
The technology is specifically designed for people who have glioblastoma – the deadliest type of brain cancer.
“If we take a sample from a patient’s tissue, together with its extracellular matrix, we can 3D-bioprint from this sample 100 tiny tumors and test many different drugs in various combinations to discover the optimal treatment for this specific tumor,” explained Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, who led the study.
“Alternately, we can test numerous compounds on a 3D-bioprinted tumor and decide which is most promising for further development and investment as a potential drug,” she added. “But perhaps the most exciting aspect is finding novel druggable target proteins and genes in cancer cells – a very difficult task when the tumor is inside the brain of a human patient or model animal.”
The researchers said many experimental cancer treatments that have shown to work well in the lab often fail when given to the patients. That’s because cancer, like all tissues, behaves differently in a petri dish than it does in a human body. However, doctors can better test experimental drugs on 3D models of a patient’s own active tumor.
“Our innovation gives us unprecedented access, with no time limits, to 3D tumors mimicking better the clinical scenario, enabling optimal investigation,” said Satchi-Fainaro.
The new study’s results were published in the prestigious journal Science Advances.