Jan. 20, 2023 – Scientists have made strides in the fight against cancer.A person’s risk of dying from cancer in the U.S. down 27% Over the past 2 years, that’s thanks in large part to researchers uncovering intricate details of how cancer works and making advances in treatments.
Now, emerging 3D bioprinting technologies — such as 3D printing of the human body, using actual human cells — promise to speed up this research, allowing scientists to develop 3D tumor models that better represent patient samples.
The impact could be “huge,” said Y. Shrike Zhang, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate bioengineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Who is working on 3D bioprinting“It’s not the only technique that can model tumors in vitro, but it’s certainly one of the most capable.”
Why is this important?because 2D cell culture The methods scientists often use now may not capture all the complexities of how cancer grows, spreads and responds to treatment. This is one reason why there are so few potential new cancer drugs — 3.4%, according to one estimate – Can pass all clinical trials.Results may not be from petri dish for patient.
On the other hand, 3D bioprinted models may be better at replicating the “Microenvironment”—all parts (cells, molecules, blood vessels) surrounding the tumor.
“The tumor microenvironment plays an integral role in defining how cancer progresses,” said Madhuri Day, a doctoral candidate and researcher at Penn State University. “In vitro 3D models are an attempt to reconstruct [cancer] The microenvironment, which reveals how tumors respond to chemotherapy or immunotherapy when they exist in a natural-like microenvironment. “
Dey is a Learn (funded by the National Science Foundation), in which breast cancer tumors were 3D bioprinted and successfully treated. Unlike some previous 3D models of cancer cells, this one does a better job of mimicking the microenvironment, Dey explained.
So far, “3D bioprinting of cancer models has been limited to bioprinting individual cancer cells loaded in hydrogels,” she said. But she and her colleagues developed a technique (called suction-assisted bioprinting) that allows them to control where blood vessels are located relative to the tumor. “This model provides the basis for studying these nuances of cancer,” Dey said.
“It’s a really cool piece of work,” Zhang said of the Penn State study, which he wasn’t involved in. “Vascularization is always a key component [a] most tumor types. Models containing blood vessels provide a “key niche” to help tumor models reach their full potential in cancer research.
A 3D printer that fits your body
You’ve probably heard of 3D printing, and you might even own (or know someone who owns) a 3D printer.The concept is like regular printing, but instead of squirting ink onto paper, a 3D printer releases layers of plastic or other material hundreds or thousands of times to build a object from scratch.
three dimensional bioprinting Work in much the same way, except the layers are made of living cells to form biological structures like skin, blood vessels, organs or bones.
bioprinting already exists since 1988. so far it has been mainly used in research settings, such as in the field regenerative medicine. research in progress ear reconstruction, nerve regeneration and skin regeneration.The technique has also recently been used to create eye tissue Helping researchers study eye diseases.
The technology’s potential for cancer research has yet to be fully realized, Dey said.but that might Changing.
“The use of 3D bioprinted tumor models is getting closer to translational cancer research,” Zhang said. “They are increasingly being adopted by the research community, and [the technology] The pharmaceutical industry has begun to explore its use in cancer drug development. ”
Because bioprinting can be automated, it could allow researchers to create high-quality, complex tumor models at scale, Zhang said.
Such 3D models also have the potential to replace or reduce the use of animals in oncology drug testing, Dey noted. They “are expected to provide more accurate drug responses than animal models, because animal physiology does not match that of humans.”
This FDA Modernization Act 2.0a new U.S. law that removes the requirement that drugs be tested on animals before being used in humans, “further paves the way for such technologies in the drug development pipeline,” Zhang said.
What if we could create a custom tumor model for each patient?
The possible uses of bioprinting go beyond the lab, Dey said. Imagine if we could customize 3D tumor models based on individual patient biopsies. Physicians can test multiple treatments on these patient-specific models, allowing them to more accurately predict how each patient will respond to different therapies. This will help doctors decide which treatment options are best.
In Dey’s study, the 3D models were treated with chemotherapy and immunotherapy and responded to both. This highlights the potential for such 3D models to reveal the body’s immune response and be used to screen for therapies, Dey said.
“We hope that in the future, this technology could be used in hospitals to speed up cancer treatment,” Dey said.
To that end, she and her colleagues are now taking real breast cancer tumors excised from patients, recreating them in 3D in the lab for use in chemotherapy and immunotherapy screening.