Pioneering research at Waikato University could eventually lead to cancer tumors being treated outside patients’ bodies.

Masters student Shalini Guleria is about to start using commercially available cancer cells to create three-dimensional models of breast cancer tumors.

“Currently the easiest way to do pharmaceutical tests on cancer cells is using 2D models which is basically a petri dish where the cells stick to the bottom of the dish and you analyze them. But humans are three dimensional and 2D doesn’t really present an actual human tumor,” Guleria said.

“With a 3D bioprinter, we can give cells a 3D environment and analyze how the cells interact with each other. Once we get the tumors made, we can slice them into sections and use a confocal microscope to study them.”

Guleria’s research will study how fast cancer cells grow in a 3D model compared to a 2D model.

“In the future what could happen is if someone has breast cancer, we could take their tumor cells and print out a tumor and try out different drugs on it and see which treatments work and what works best for the patient. It’s all about making treatment more patient-specific.”