3D Printing To Help Scientists Create Personalized Cancer Treatment

The rise of 3D printing has changed the manufacturing industry. Now, the medical community is learning how to utilize the technology to create new treatments for diseases, including cancer. 

Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology developed a new 3D printed tool that could separate cancer cells from billions of blood cells in the body. 

The 3D-printed cell trap can filter red blood cells and trap white blood cells and tumor cells. The separated damaged ones are then used in diagnosing cancer. 

Researchers said the tool could help understand cancer development and provide early warning of recurrence. They added it may also help create personalized cancer treatment since doctors are able to directly study tumor cells circulating in the patient’s bloodstream, Futurity reported

“With this device, we can process a clinically-relevant volume of blood by capturing nearly all of the white blood cells and then filtering out the red blood cells by size,” A. Fatih Sarioglu, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, said. “That leaves us with undamaged tumor cells that can be sequenced to determine the specific cancer type and the unique characteristics of each patient’s tumor.”

Sarioglu added isolating tumor cells in blood samples was previously difficult because cancer cells commonly mix with billions of normal red and white blood cells. The 3D-printed cell trap provides a rapid and low-cost method to identify damaged cells. 

Previous methods to capture circulating tumor cells required extracting them from the blood using microfluidic technology. The technique uses specific markers on cells.

However, cancer cells can change over time, which makes it difficult to accurately identify malignant cells. 

The Power Of 3D Printer

Sarioglu and colleagues tested the 3D-printed cell trap with blood samples from healthy people. The researchers added cancer cells to the samples in the lab. 

The results, published in the journal Lab on a Chip, showed that the trap could separate 90 percent of the tumor cells from blood cells. The experiment involved cells from prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.

Sarioglu said the tool could capture tumor cells from any type of cancer. 

“We expect that this will really be an enabling tool for clinicians,” the researcher said. “In our lab, the mindset is always toward translating our research by making the device simple enough to be used in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities that will help diagnose disease in patients.”

mitosis Artists impression of cancer cells in the blood. Pixabay