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Fighting cancer with advanced tech

The University of South Australia (UniSA) have recently showcased the world’s latest cancer research using organs-on-a-chip technology and 3D bioprinted tumour models at an international symposium.

As reported, researchers from the University, Australia, the US and France have demonstrated how far the world has come in helping to find a cure for a disease, which is responsible for nearly one in six deaths worldwide.

Advancing cancer research

The event was hosted by the University’s Future Industries Institute and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science & Technology.

There is a crucial need for advanced in vitro solid tumour models that mimic the complexity of real tumour tissues and therefore better predict the response to treatment.

Breakthroughs in blood cancer treatments have been made in recent years, but solid tumours are more challenging.

These models will eventually incorporate patients’ own cells, paving the way for truly personalised therapies.

This need is heightened by rapid progress in the fields of cancer immunotherapy and radiotherapy.

A more personalised approach through computational models

A team of researchers, led by a University Professor in Medical Radiation, is developing computational models based on cancer patients’ genetic data to optimise radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments.

The Professor gave one of the keynote presentations at the International Symposium on Bioengineered Cancer Models, promoting the need for a more personalised approach to radiation oncology.

Thanks to sophisticated imaging techniques and biological screening, they now have a wealth of information about cancer patients that can help them tailor a specific treatment therapy.

This would provide each individual the best chance of beating the disease.

Big data mining, machine learning and the development of computational models can now help in determining the optimal cancer treatments based on an individual’s diagnosis, radiation sensitivity, lifestyle factors, and other variables.

Computational models allow researchers to compare clinical trials and predict outcomes as well as evaluating the risks or side effects, ruling out treatments that may not be beneficial for patients.

They have developed one of the most advanced and sophisticated 4D computational tumour models available in the world.

The model mimics specific cancers, in the head and neck, and their growth and distribution, allowing the team to simulate treatment options.

Showcasing other cancer research

Other presentations included in the International Symposium:

  1. From Harvard University, United States – culturing patients’ own tumour cells in microscale devices
  2. From the University of Adelaide – research focused on hormonal carcinogenesis and the treatment of breast and prostate cancer
  3. From France – developing a versatile microfluidic system to emulate human physiology in a chip
  4. From the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – designing novel lab-on-a-chip systems to model physiology of human tissues and organs
  5. From the University of New South Wales (UNSW) – developing a 3D bioprinted soft tissue tumour models in collaboration with a Sydney-based company
  6. From a University of South Australia spinout company – developing a world-first T-cell immunotherapy to treat solid cancers
  7. From Royal Adelaide Hospital – involved in the establishment of Australia’s first Proton Therapy Unit, to be built in Adelaide and operational by 2022
  8. From the University of South Australia – development of a head and neck cancer on a chip to look at the side effects of radiotherapy
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