Like many of us, Glen Mills mom Kelly Barber spent much of her summer marveling at how the Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the world by storm. From pro athletes to celebrities to former heads of state, people have been happily dumping buckets of ice water on their heads in the name of awareness and fundraising for ALS. And it’s worked: The ALS Association says the challenge has raised $94 million in needed funds.
Which, of course, is awesome, except that the cause close to Barber’s heart isn’t ALS but childhood cancer—specifically, childhood brain cancer. See, her four-year-old daughter, Brielle, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called Analplastic Glioma Astrocytoma just about a month ago. This, after little Brielle battled a malignant tumor on her spine earlier this year.
“There’s not a lot of funding for research and trials for childhood cancer, and particularly brain tumors,” says Barber. “So I thought, ‘Hey, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a huge success. Why not come up with something to bring awareness to childhood cancer?'”
It seems like every time we turn around, someone is printing something new with a 3D printer. People are 3D printing guns. People are 3D printing houses for less than $5,000. People are even 3D printing sex toys. And now, a team at Drexel University is printing real live cancer tumors.
Why would anyone want to do this?
“Two-dimensional cell culture models are traditionally used for biology study and drug screening,” explains Dr. Wei Sun, the director of Drexel’s research center at the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute and professor at Drexel’s College of Engineering. “However, two-dimensional culture models can not represent true 3D physiological tissues so it lacks the microenvironment characteristics of natural 3D tissues in vivo. This inherent inadequacy leads to shortcomings in cancer research and anti-tumor drug development. On the other hand, 3D tumor models can represent true tumor 3D pathological organizations and will lead to a new paradigm for cancer study.”
Though 3D printing is new to many, Sun has been working with the technology since the early 2000s. In 2002, Sun patented a 3D printer capable of creating tissue samples.
The image seen here is of a living tumor grown in eight days from a printed mixture of cervical cancer cells and a gel-like substance. In Sun’s study, published in the April edition of the journal Biofabrication, 90 percent of the cancer cells survived the process and grew into tumors.
This could change the way that cancer researchers search for a cure for the disease, because the new method would allow them to work with tumors that are almost exactly like the real thing.
Ardmore-based Breastcancer.org posed the following question to its Facebook fans yesterday: “What is the one thing you DO NOT want to hear when you tell someone you have cancer?”
Not surprisingly, the question got a ton of responses from cancer patients and survivors, who shared what resonated and jarred them when they told their friends, family members and coworkers that they’d been diagnosed with cancer. I thought we might all be able to learn a thing or two from their posts, so here is a selection of the most insightful responses. Click on the link above to see the full list.
French nonprofit cancer charity the Mimi Foundation told 20 cancer patients they would give them a makeover. All they had to do was keep their eyes closed till it was finished. Of course, when they opened them, the patients expected to see themselves looking glamorous, you know, how you do when you get a makeover, but what they saw was God-awful.