3D printed tumor models can help doctors and surgeons to get a better look at and understanding of the masses that they’re going to be treating or removing from a patient’s body, and they can also help patients to understand their own conditions. But bioprinting actual tumors can tell scientists a lot more about cancer in general and how different types respond to different treatments.

 

Testing drugs on cells grown in lab environments isn’t new, but cells cultured in 2D environments behave very differently from the ones that actually make up a three-dimensional tumor. By 3D printing tumors using actual cancer cells, researchers can get a better idea of how actual tumors might react to a certain drug.

 

The 3D printed tumors can also be used to test new and experimental cancer treatments, reducing the need for animal testing and giving scientists a better idea of how the drugs will actually work in humans. Dr. Elisabeth Phillips and Khoon Lim, also of the University of Otago, came up with the 3D printing idea and obtained funding to research breast cancer through bioprinted tumors. In the future, said Professor Mike Berridge from the Malaghan Institute, the same technique could also be used to evaluate treatments for other types of cancer. We’ve already seen similar work in the 3D printed brain tumor research going on in Scotland, but this study is believed to be the first of its kind in New Zealand.