The word “Cancer” strikes fear into the hearts of people the world over. However, new research and development into the field has proven to restrict growth of cancerous cells and, even in some instances, eradicate them from the body completely. When you think of cancer research, your first thought is probably not 3D Printing, but 3D Printers are now proving instrumental in helping researchers better understand this debilitating disease and help patients beat the odds. Here are just a few examples of how 3D Printing is revolutionising treatment within the cancer field.

Literally, Seeing the Potential

Part of the problem facing cancer research is that cancer cells can sometimes be difficult to locate. Once located, actually seeing how the cancer is affecting the organ, or affected tissue, is a challenge as well. This is where 3D Printing has proven to be quite successful. Research from the Institute of Cancer Research of London is using 3D Printed organs to replicate cancerous body parts. With this method, the organ can be better studied to account for optimal treatment. As an added bonus, liquid, mimicking blood and other human fluids, run through the organ naturally to show any blockages or anywhere the cancer is restricting vital fluid movement.

In addition to vital research into cancerous organs and tissue, this form of 3D Printing will prove invaluable to cancer studies in universities and physician teaching facilities throughout the world. Students aspiring to be surgeons will no longer have to rely on hands on experience with live patients or cadavers but can utilise in house 3D Printers to print working 3D models of the required organ with meticulous detail. This form of 3D Printing has the potential to positively impact the cancer industry as a whole as well as other areas for surgeon education entities.

3D Printed Organs giving a better understanding into cancer research and development

3D Printed Prosthetics

3D Printing is quickly becoming an essential tool in the medical field. We have seen how 3D Printed models can be produced for reconstructed limbs and even certain organs within the body when it comes to other diseases and even amputees. Cancer patients can benefit as well. Although radiation treatments have proven very effective to many different types of cancer, some cancer cells still require surgery to remove them from the body. This often requires whole limbs or appendages to be removed.

Reconstructing that area, especially on the face, can prove almost impossible to even the most experienced surgeon. Patients that undergo such drastic procedures are often left slightly disfigured leading to a lower self-image. Replicating the exact piece taken out is a challenge for traditional forms of implants as each person, although nominally the same, will have certain differences. 3D Printing accounts for this like no other technology available. In house 3D Printers at the cancer facility would be able to completely replicate the removed piece down to every small detail, ensuring the final result would be an exact match. This would allow the patient to remain whole without any changes to their physical appearance. See the image below to understand fully what we are talking about.

Reconstructive surgery following cancer with the use of 3D Printed implants and skin grafting.

Children Bone Cancer Restrictions

Children especially are negatively affected by cancer. Bone cancer in children is growing at an alarming rate and many physicians find it difficult to treat as their patient’s young bodies are still growing. With 3D Printing, new possibilities are beginning to emerge to treat bone related cancers in young patients. Again, radiation does a great deal of good for childhood cancer, but 3D Printing can do so much more.

Instead of merely relying on radiation to eradicate cancerous cells from the bones, 3D Printing opens the options for replacing the bone itself with 3D Printed materials. The best thing about these materials is that as the patient grows, new implants can be inserted to match the growth of the child until they reach their fully grown height. Additionally, this offers research into the possibilities of expandable materials that would grow with the child. The possibilities are endless with 3D Printing.

3D Printed bone fragments to replace cancerous bone sections.

Where 3D Printing began as a way to print 3D models for artistic purposes, the technology has certainly grown to include many other industries. Cancer research is just one of the areas in which 3D Printing is making an impact. With more filaments and an increase in faster 3D Printers, there is no telling where the future of the industry is set to go. The world is wide open and 3D Printing is helping more people live a full and happy life, cancer free!

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