Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have accomplished an impressive feat: they are the first to 3D print an active glioblastoma tumor in a brain-like environment, complete with blood vessels supplying the mass. It’s the most comprehensive replication of a tumor and surrounding tissue to date and includes “a complex system of blood vessel-like tubes through which blood cells and drugs can flow, simulating a real tumor,” reads the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances.
The 3D-printed imitation tumor could help develop new methods to improve glioblastoma cancer treatment and accelerate the discovery of new drugs by allowing researchers to test cures in a simulated setting.
Glioblastoma and the breakthrough
Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can form in the brain or spinal cord. It is a rare diagnosis, however, it’s a type of cancer that develops rapidly and is almost always fatal, which makes it quite difficult to treat. Normally, the therapy is aggressive and requires courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy that are so rigorous that patients often become too weak to complete them.
New drugs can help, but drug development processes are slow and fail to demonstrate how a patient’s body will react to it.
“Cancer, like all tissues, behaves very differently in a petri dish or test tube than it does in the human body,” says lead researcher Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro in a press release. “Approximately 90 percent of all experimental drugs fail in clinical trials because the success achieved in the lab is not reproduced in patients.”
Now, with the successful 3D replica of the cancer tissue and the surrounding tumor environment that influences the tumor’s development, deeper research and drug development are possible.
One of the most potentially revolutionary aspects of this breakthrough is the ability to identify proteins and genes in cancer cells that drug developers can then target, strengthening our fight against cancer.
“If we take a sample from a patient’s tumor, together with surrounding tissues, we can 3D-bioprint from this sample 100 tiny tumors and test many different drugs in various combinations to discover the optimal treatment for this specific tumor,” explains Satchi-Fainaro. “Alternately, we can test numerous compounds on a 3D-bioprinted tumor and decide which is most promising for further development and investment as a potential drug,” she continues.
With this new technique, researchers were able to target a specific protein pathway that enables the immune system to help glioblastoma spread rather than kill fatal cancer cells. This slowed glioblastoma growth and stopped its invasion.
Source Study: Science Advances—Microengineered perfusable 3D-bioprinted glioblastoma model for in vivo mimicry of tumor microenvironment