3D-printed stents deliver drugs for oesophageal cancer

Friday, 05 February, 2021

3D-printed stents deliver drugs for oesophageal cancer

Researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) have developed 3D-printed oesophageal stents that could revolutionise the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to provide more accurate, effective and personalised treatment for patients with oesophageal cancer. Their work has been described in the journal Biomaterials Science.

Oesophageal cancer is the seventh most common cancer in the world and the sixth highest cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Unless diagnosed early, prognosis remains poor, with a five-year survival rate of around 20%.

“Oesophageal cancer is often challenging to treat, with early diagnosis critical for positive outcomes,” said UniSA PhD scholar Paris Fouladian.

“The most prominent symptom is dysphagia (difficulty swallowing food or drink), which is due to malignant cancer cells blocking the oesophagus.

“Blockages are commonly eased by an oesophageal stent — a small tube that is placed in the food pipe to keep it open — but these too can become obstructed by invading cancer cells.

“Our new drug-loaded oesophageal stents can help prevent further blockages by administering anticancer drugs directly to the tumour, limiting further growth while relieving the pressure of dysphagia.”

Fabricated from polyurethane filament and incorporating the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), the 3D-printed stents are said to be the first to contain active pharmaceutical ingredients within their matrix. Their composition allows them to deliver up to 110 days of a sustained anticancer medication directly to the cancer site, restricting further tumour growth.

The drug-loaded oesophageal stents are stable to both UV and gamma sterilisation processes. Furthermore, the capabilities of 3D printing enable rapid creation of individually tailored stents with patient-specific geometries and drug dosages.

Senior researcher Professor Sanjay Garg, Director of UniSA’s Pharmaceutical Innovation and Development Group, said the new technology is a significant breakthrough in modern drug delivery.

“3D printing processes that combine medicines and medical devices are on the precipice of changing the way we deliver medicines,” Prof Garg said.

“We’re now exploring the potential of 3D printing to design precise and individualised drug delivery systems.

“While more research is needed to further test the new drug-loaded 3D printed stents, we’re hopeful that this new technology will deliver positive outcomes for people with oesophageal cancer.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Kateryna_Kon

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