3D Bioprint of Breast Cancer Tumor Used to Test Treatments

“A scientific first!” Penn State created 3D bioprints of breast cancer tumors and was able to successfully treat them. Ibrahim Ozbolat, professor of engineering science and mechanics, biomedical engineering and neurosurgery at Penn State says, “We’ve developed a tool that serves as a clinical test platform to safely and accurately evaluate experimental therapies.”

3D printing offers a new platform for doctors and scientists to understand how tumors grow and how they interact with healthy immune cells. Ozbolat uses 3D printing to create many other types of human tissue, to better study health. For this study, researchers used a newer technique, aspiration-assisted bioprinting, to isolate tumors in 3D and replicate corresponding tissue and blood vessels.

The tumor in the model responded to various therapies, chemotherapy and cell-based immunotherapeutics. Ozbolat explains that immunotherapy (when immune cells are removed and then gene-edited to combat cancer cells, then reinserted into the bloodstream) has traditionally been a “promising” treatment for blood-related cancers (since the gene-edited cells move through the bloodstream), however, this study is allowing scientists to see how immunotherapy works with tumors, specifically.

The tumor wasn’t the only fabricated element in the study – researchers used gene editing to create human CAR-T cells to register and attack breast cancer cells. The CAR-T cells were injected into the tumor and 72 hours later, the tumor cells were having a “positive immune response.”  

While the model for this experiment was taken from human cells, it was a pared-down version of what exists in the human body – there’s no way, currently, to replicate all the intricacies that work together in the human body that create an environment for disease and healing. “We are aiming for simplicity within complexity.” Right now, the researchers are opting for efficiency since finding better treatment is of the essence.

Experimental anticancer treatments and medications are still under-studied, due to lack of resources and platforms to conduct studies. However, using bioprinting to create 3D replicas changes the landscape of possibilities for scientists and doctors to understand tumors and immune response.

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