3D printer generates realistic model of a cancerous tumour

May 27, 2015, Institute of Physics
The three-dimensional tumour model consists of a scaffold of fibrous proteins coated in cervical cancer cells.

An international scientific team has successfully created a three-dimensional model of a cancerous tumour using a 3D printer. Their model could ultimately help discover new drugs and cast new light on how tumours develop, grow and spread.

Presented in the IOP Publishing journal Biofabrication, the realistic 3D model consists of a scaffold of fibrous proteins coated in cervical cancer cells. A 10mm by 10mm grid structure – made from gelatin, alginate and fibrin – recreates the fibrous proteins that make up the extracellular matrix of a tumour. The grid structure is coated in Hela cells: a unique, "immortal" cell line that was originally derived from a cervical cancer patient in 1951.

The most effective way of studying tumours is in a clinical trial. However, ethical and safety limitations make it difficult for such studies to be carried out on a wide scale. To overcome this, two-dimensional models – consisting of a single layer of cells – have been created to mimic the physiological environment of tumours and test anti-cancer drugs in a realistic way.

With the advent of 3D printing, it is now possible to provide a more realistic representation of the environment surrounding a tumour. The researchers demonstrated this by comparing results from their 3D model with results from a 2D model.

After testing if the cells remained viable, or alive, after printing, the researchers examined how the cells proliferated, how they expressed a specific set of proteins that help tumours spread, and how resistant the cells were to anti-cancer drugs.

They found that 90% of the cancer cells remained viable after the printing process. In addition, the 3D model shared more similarities with a tumour than 2D models including a higher proliferation rate, higher protein expression and higher resistance to .

"We have provided a scalable and versatile 3D cancer model that shows a greater resemblance to natural cancer than 2D cultured cancer cells," says the lead author, Professor Wei Sun of Tsinghua University in China and Drexel University in the United States.

The researchers are now trying to understand both cell-cell and cell-substrate communication and immune responses for their printed -like models. "With further understanding of these 3D models, we plan to use them to study the development, invasion, metastasis and treatment of cancer using specific cancer cells from patients," says Professor Sun. "We can also use these models to test the efficacy and safety of new cancer treatment therapies and cancer drugs."

Explore further: 3-D printing cancer cells to mimic tumors

Related Stories

3-D printing cancer cells to mimic tumors

April 10, 2014
A group of researchers in China and the US have successfully created a 3D model of a cancerous tumour using a 3D printer.

Patient cancer cells help to test treatments

May 7, 2015
A study, published today in Cell, demonstrates the power of organoids to capture, in three dimensions, the multiple mutations that occur in tumours. Organoids, small clusters of cells that accurately mimic the behaviour of ...

Researchers find potential anti-cancer use for anti-epilepsy drug

January 27, 2015
Scientists at the University of York have discovered that a drug used widely to combat epilepsy has the potential to reduce the growth and spread of breast cancer.

New drug combination shows promise for breaking breast cancer resistance

April 20, 2015
Researchers from The University of Manchester working with drug development company Evgen Pharma, have developed a new combination of drugs which could overcome treatment resistance and relapse in breast cancer.

How cancer tricks the lymphatic system into spreading tumors

May 11, 2015
Swollen lymph nodes are often the earliest sign of metastatic spread of cancer cells. Now cancer researchers and immunologists at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet have discovered how cancer cells can infiltrate the lymphatic ...

Recommended for you

Gene plays critical role in noise-induced deafness

October 19, 2018
In experiments using mice, a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered a gene that plays an essential role in noise-induced deafness. Remarkably, by administering an experimental chemical—identified in a separate ...

Functional engineered oesophagus could pave way for clinical trials 

October 18, 2018
The world's first functional oesophagus engineered from stem cells has been grown and successfully transplanted into mice, as part of a pioneering new study led by UCL.

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

October 16, 2018
Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Age-related increase in estrogen may cause common men's hernia

October 16, 2018
An age-related increase in estrogen may be the culprit behind inguinal hernias, a condition common among elderly men that often requires corrective surgery, according to a Northwestern Medicine study was published Oct. 15 ...

Income and wealth affect the mental health of Australians, study shows

October 16, 2018
Australians who have higher incomes and greater wealth are more likely to experience better mental health throughout their lives, new research led by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has found.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.