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Could 3-D Printing Help Find A Cure For Cancer?

May 5, 2014
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Could 3-D Printing Help Find A Cure For Cancer?
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What sounds like a wacky science experiment could be the future of medicine.

Imagine if you had a cancerous tumor, and your doctor could determine the best course of treatment by printing a three-dimensional (3-D) replica of the mass. You’d probably sign up immediately, right?

Thanks to researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia this could soon be a possibility.

Dr. Wei Sun and his staff have discovered new research on expediting the process of testing cancer drugs through the use of 3-D printers. The technology means doctors can print a living tumor (or a mixture of cancerous and healthy biomaterial) at such high resolution that the cells can be examined with extreme precision, according to Fast Company.

Typically, the drawn-out process requires testing drugs on cancer cells in a Petri dish, then on 3-D tumors in animals and — with a comprehensive record of trials — eventually on humans. But this process is far from ideal. Why? First off, what works in two-dimensional form may not work in 3-D. Not to mention that what works on animals may not always work on humans. Formulas can fail when switching test subjects, which is why developing cancer drugs can be such a costly venture, according to Sun.

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“Doctors want to be able to print tissue, to make organ on the cheap,” Dr. Sun said. “This kind of technology is what will make that happen. In 10 years, every lab and hospital will have a 3-D printing machine that can print living cells.”

By using 3-D printing technology, doctors can speed up the process of drug development but also potentially use it to personalize cancer treatment. The accuracy to print out multi-shaped tumors of different sizes means that a doctor can determine what drugs would work the best by simulating it with the printed version.

With cancer being such a costly and widespread disease, Sun’s venture has the potential to revolutionize treatment and save countless lives.

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