A bioprinted glioblastoma-on-a-chip

A brain-tumour-on-a-chip includes a central core of tumour cells (purple) and a ring of endothelial cells (magenta), which line blood-vessel walls. Credit: Hee-Gyeong Yi

Cancer

A 3D printer loaded with cancerous ‘ink’ churns out mini-brain tumours

Tumours-on-a-chip could help to customize treatments for glioblastoma.

Scientists have used 3D printing to create mini-tumours-on-a-chip, which might aid doctors in choosing the most potent treatment for a patient’s cancer.

Glioblastomas are the most common type of brain tumour. To re-create these highly lethal tumours in the lab, Dong-Woo Cho at POSTECH in Pohang, South Korea, and Sun Ha Paek at the Seoul National University College of Medicine formulated a range of ‘bioinks’, each containing cancer cells from one of seven patients with glioblastoma. The researchers used 3D printing to deposit this ink and other materials onto slips of glass. The resulting mini-tumours had the same biochemistry and structure as actual glioblastomas.

The team then applied chemotherapy and radiation to the tumours-on-a-chip and found that the miniature cancers’ responses mimicked those of the cancers from which they were derived. The therapy killed more than 50% of the cells in mini-tumours from patients who had responded best to treatment. But the therapy was much less effective when applied to mini-tumours from patients whose cancer could not be controlled.

Cancer drugs could be tested on the mini-tumours to tailor treatments for glioblastoma, the authors suggest.