First-Ever 3D-Printed Active Tumor May Help Fight Cancer

In a fascinating trend that seems to be accelerating this year, we’re seeing biologists and other related scientists use a combo of 3D printing and live cells to make truly strange wonders. Like these bacterial 8-bit works of art, for example. Or, in the case of a new study out of Israel: a brain tumor. A real “active” one that could lead to better cancer treatments.

A glowing, blue 3D-printed hunk of tumor sitting on a dark surface in a lab.


The Times of Israel reported on the wild achievement, which professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro at Tel Aviv University and her team outlined in a study published in the journal Science Advances. Satchi-Fainaro, a neuroscientist, set out specifically to provide better lab materials to study the interaction between a cancer host’s normal cells and its cancer cells.

To that end, Satchi-Fainaro and her team 3D printed—for the first time ever—an entire active glioblastoma: an aggressive type of cancer that grows in a person’s brain or spinal cord. To print the tumor, the researchers took cancer cells from a real patient. They then proceeded to 3D print them into miniature versions of their entire, original source tumor. Satchi-Fainaro et al. then ran the patient’s own blood through the 3D-printed tumors (using 3D-printed blood vessels) to keep them alive.

Despite the specific nature of the study’s goal, the team’s findings have broad implications. As the neuroscientists describe in the video above, they’re able to test various cancer therapies on their 3D-printed tumors, experimenting with one or more treatments to see what works best specifically for the donor patient.

The needle of a 3D printer squirting cancer cells into the shape of a tumor on a slice of glass.


The most exciting aspect of the study, Satchi-Fainaro said in a press release, is that these 3D-printed tumors will allow for “novel druggable target proteins and genes in cancer cells—a very difficult task when the tumor is inside the brain of a human patient or model animal.” A noble goal to be sure, although the scientists should proceed with extreme caution. Something tells us these clumps of cells are not done evolving.

Top Stories
More by Matthew Hart
Trending Topics