Jan 20, 2016 | By Benedict
Dr. Yunqing Kang of Florida Atlantic University has received a $141,743 grant from the National Cancer Institute in order to develop a biodegradable, 3D printed polymer stent. The 3D printed stent will decrease complications and act as a delivery system for esophageal cancer therapy drugs.
All forms of cancer are terrifying, but esophageal cancer can be a complete nightmare for sufferers: Pain, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness and vomiting blood are just some of the symptoms associated with the terrible disease. More common to men than women, esophageal cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer worldwide, and can be one of the hardest to treat.
A staggering 50-60% of patients with esophageal cancer are not suitable for surgery. This can be for several reasons, but late detection of tumors and enlarged metastases are some of the more common obstacles. Unfortunately, when surgery is ruled out, things get tricky: Patients are usually treated with a surgically implanted metal mesh stent, which can cause deeply unpleasant complications such as bleeding, chest pain, perforation and tumor ingrowth.
Given the upsetting nature of these complications, it is perhaps no surprise that the National Cancer Institute listened attentively when Dr. Yunqing Kang informed them that he could create a complication-free, 3D printed polymer stent. The Institute awarded Kang a $141,743 grant to complete the development of the biodegradable stent, which will also serve as a drug delivery system for esophageal cancer therapy. Existing metal stents, as well as causing bleeding and other complications, are unable to carry and deliver anti-cancer drugs to treat esophageal tumors and prevent tumor tissue ingrowth.
“Currently, there are no stents that are available in a clinical setting that have the ability of preventing or decreasing the complications, and at the same time providing the capability of delivering cancer therapy drugs,” said Yunqing (Kevin) Kang, Ph.D., principal investigator and assistant professor of biomaterials and regenerative medicine in FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering.
As with many medical innovations of recent times, the polymer stent with be created with a 3D printer. Kang’s special 3D printing technique will be used to develop the tissue-engineered stent from biodegradable elastomeric polymer materials. These materials will ensure the right balance between rigidity and flexibility, with the stent needing to expand and contract with the esophagus. In addition to its improved material qualities, one of the most revolutionary features of the 3D printed stent is its ability to dispense the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel (PTX) to locally treat esophageal cancer.
“Because our materials will be made from biodegradable polymer, they will dissolve and disappear after the stent is surgically placed into the patient’s esophagus,” added Kang. “Once treatment is completed, it won’t be necessary for the surgeon to remove the stent, making the process and treatment much more comfortable for the patient.”
With almost 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer diagnosed in the US alone last year, there is an urgent need to improve treatment techniques. It is hoped that the 3D printed stent developed by Kang and his team could significantly ease the unpleasant complications suffered by patients undergoing treatment, as well as as increasing recovery rates. After joining FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science in August 2014, Kang established the FAU Kang Biomaterials Laboratory, which is dedicated to developing functional biomaterials for bone regeneration and drug delivery systems.
“Dr. Kang is an outstanding addition to our department and to the existing cancer research scientists at Florida Atlantic University. We expect that Dr. Kang’s state-of-the-art approach in the treatment of esophageal cancer will help our university emerge as a leader in the treatment of a variety of cancers through tissue engineering approaches,” said Javad Hashemi, Ph.D., chair and professor of FAU’s Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering.
Kang’s development of the 3D printed polymer stent will be followed closely by both medical professionals and 3D printing specialists. Should it prove successful, the treatment procedure could serve to improve the reputation of 3D printing technology within the medical community.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Anthony wrote at 1/21/2016 4:38:49 AM:
“Because our materials will be made from biodegradable polymer, they will dissolve and disappear after the stent is surgically placed into the patient’s esophagus,” how do we control when the stent is kept in the body and when it dissolves?