March 5, 2021

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UniSA team develops novel 3D printed stents

The University of South Australia announced the launch of the world’s first 3D printed oesophageal stents. These novel devices could revolutionise the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to provide more accurate, effective and personalised treatment for patients with oesophageal cancer.

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

Importantly, the capabilities of 3D printing enabling rapid creation of individually tailored stents with patient-specific geometries and drug dosages. A PhD scholar at UniSA involved in the development of the device stated that new oesophageal stents could be a gamechanger for treating oesophageal cancer.

“Oesophageal cancer is often challenging to treat, with early diagnosis critical for positive outcomes,” she says. “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. The team’s new drug-loaded oesophageal stents can help prevent further blockages by administering anti-cancer drugs directly to the tumour, limiting further growth while relieving the pressure of dysphagia. The new drug-loaded 3D printed oesophageal stents are stable to both UV and gamma sterilisation processes.

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 per cent.

Senior researcher and Director of UniSA’s Pharmaceutical Innovation and Development Group says 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,” he noted says. 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.”

According to recent market research, the global 3D printing medical devices market is expected to exceed US$1,700 million in revenues by the end of 2022. The global 3D printing medical devices market is poised to exhibit a high double-digit CAGR from 2017 to 2022. The introduction of 3D-printed tablets has paved new opportunities for 3D-printing technology, increasing its application across the pharmaceutical industry.

Numerous collaborations have been witnessed worldwide, between academic institutions and major players in the market, who are investing heavily in R&D activities. 3D-printing technology has been revolutionising the preclinical drug testing, making the testing on 3D-printed organs convenient, thereby resulting in the provision of a substitute for animal testing.

This technology is also making it easy for surgeons to improve the complicated procedures’ success rate. The aforementioned factors are expected to augment demand for 3D printing medical devices in the years to come.

The potential of 3D-printing to transform medical devices’ use to treat various diseases is impacting the healthcare sector, enabling the construction of non-implantable and implantable medical devices, and cost-effective customisable medical devices.

The rise in demand for medical devices that match a patient’s anatomy in orthopaedic, and maxillofacial surgery is favouring expansion of the medical 3D-printing industry. Facilitating surgeons in planning surgeries, 3D printing medical devices help in lowering operative risks encountered during complex procedures, reduce the duration of anaesthesia exposure, decrease the risk of infection, enable patients in recovering faster, and dramatically reduce the time of hospital stay. These factors might further impact market growth over the forecast period.

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