3D printed sponge to help cure cancer | Sculpteo Blog

3D printed sponge to help cure cancer

Posted By Lucie Gaget on Feb 27, 2019 | 0 comments

A 3D printed sponge to soak up chemo drugs… Does it sound impossible for you? You certainly know it by reading our blog, 3D printing technology is now really revolutionizing the medical industry, from treatments testing to 3D printed organs. Today we are going to see how additive manufacturing could help to cure cancer. Cancer is impacting a lot of people’s lives all around the world, but what if a new way to cure it was on its way?

Let’s see if this new project developed by researchers, using a 3D printed sponge, can revolutionize chemotherapy’s efficiency!


Cancer: Still a complicated healing path


It’s not new, chemotherapy is quite a difficult process to go through, and it can even be quite dangerous for all patients. Indeed chemotherapy uses strong drugs, which are actually poisonous, with strong secondary effects, including vomiting, immune suppression or even heart failure.

Most of the time, chemo is injected in the patient’s body, and reach the cancer site, but not only, as the drug is also traveling through other organs. A simple dose is sufficient to stop the growth of cancer cells, but it can cause other damage on the patient’s other organs. The solution could cut down on the toxic effects of cancer treatment. If only a chemo filter could be invented…


How the 3D printed sponge could help to cure cancer?


Avoiding side effects of chemotherapy

An experiment has been developed, with sponges inserted in the bloodstream to absorb the excess drugs. Steve Hetts, a neuroradiologist from the University of California, in San Francisco started all of this. He developed this project of 3D printed sponges with engineers in order to create test and prototypes.

This experiment has recently been tested in pigs and is quite a success. The 3D printed sponge is small and cylindrical. Placed in a vein near the tumor, the role of this little device is to absorb the drug before it goes through the body. This way the drug can only be active where it needs to be active, near the tumor and doesn’t poison the other organs.

Such a process could avoid most of the side effects of chemotherapy by stopping the spread of the drug in the body.

Here is a cross-sectional view of the 3D printed sponge:

3D printed sponge


Why using 3D printing?

Additive manufacturing has a lot of benefits for the medical sector. One of the biggest advantages of this technology for this sector is that it allows for creating custom made objects perfectly adapted to the patient’s morphology and to their problem.

We saw it with 3D printed prosthetics, but also for jaw reconstruction and knee replacement. It can be used to print at a smaller scale, allowing to create a sponge fitting perfectly the patients veins. The customized cylindrical sponge has an internal grid, coated in a drug-absorbing polymer and is placed in a vein carrying the blood out of the targeted infected organ.


Results of this experiment

In first tests with pigs, the device allowed the reduction by 64% of the amount of drug delivered in the organism of the patient. Before infusing the drug, researchers placed the 3D printed sponge a few centimeters from the infusion site. This way the chemotherapy agent doxorubicin didn’t spread entirely in the body.

For humans the process would be exactly the same. Regarding the success of the first tests, this 3D printed sponge is really promising and has a great future in the medical field. This process could even allow injecting bigger drug dosages for, particularly aggressive tumors. Also, for the moment this 3D printed device is made to help cure liver cancer, but it could be applied to a lot of different tumors and disease treatments.


Share your views with us! What do you think of this medical experiment using additive manufacturing?

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