3D printing of cancer tumours by Kiwi scientists allow new drugs to be tested

It may look like it's drizzling honey but this is a 3D printer and it's printing a tumour made up of breast cancer cells combined with fat tissue.

Pair of Christchurch scientists have turned pie-in-the sky idea into ground-breaking research. Source: 1 NEWS

Elisabeth Phillips from the Mackenzie Cancer Research group is one of the scientists working on the study.

"Normally we would grow cells in a 2D sheet and they grow as one layer what we're doing here is growing them in a 3d environment so the cells are in a more realistic environment."

It now means researchers can get a better idea of how cancers respond to treatment.

"At the moment we're looking at how chemotherapy agents that are already available can impact on the cancer in 3D." said Dr Phillips.

She and bio-printing expert Khoon Lim from the University of Otago's Christchurch campus, came up with the idea over a coffee.

Now they've got cancer society funding to research breast cancer which is the most common cancer for women.

Khoon Lim says the discovery is a game changer.

"Cancer in 3D environment do behave very differently to chemo drugs as opposed to in a 2d environment, this means we can try to develop a lot of different drugs, more cancer specific drugs that can help patients."

Survival rates for breast cancer have improved dramatically over the years but still in New Zealand nearly a quarter of all women who are diagnosed with the disease will die of it which amounts to around 600 women a year.

Proffessor Mike Berridge from Malaghan institute says the 3D modelling could create a base for treatment of other types of cancer.

"The sorts of information that will come out of the types of modelling, the banks, the types of tumours that are being looked at will add to knowledge base and will help in our drive to essentially treat and control cancer."

The research is believed to be a New Zealand first but Khoon Lim admits they're still probably a decade off creating patient-specific tumours but if they achieve this, it could be the future of a more personalised way to treat cancer.