Developing 3D printed models of childhood and adult brain tumours

Heriot-Watt University

Active award

Student: Rafael Ballesteros Cillero

Year Award Started: 2019

Cancer is the leading cause of death in children aged 1-14 in the UK, with brain tumours being the most common childhood tumours and in both adults and children brain tumours are amongst the most deadly forms of cancer. To study brain tumours and particularly to test drugs to treat them, researchers have developed several types of “brain tumours in a laboratory” including genetically modified mice and brain tumour cells taken from patients and grown either in dishes in incubators or implanted into mice. However, these options all have problems and expensive failures of drugs in clinical trials would be avoided if these laboratory models gave results that were better at predicting success in patients. Research has provided ways to work with patient-derived brain tumour cells, but simply grown on their own in plastic dishes, they behave very differently than they do in a real tumour. Using new methods we have recently developed, we plan to 3D print cells from aggressive adult and childhood brain cancers mixed with other cell types common in and around these tumours, so that they behave the way they do in the patient. We will continue to develop this technology and test whether these 3D printed tumour constructs really give drug testing data which is much closer results to human disease than current simpler alternatives. We aim to deliver new technology and methods to study brain cancers and accelerate the provision of new drugs to patients.

Research area: Cancer


Professor Nicholas Leslie
Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering
Dr Ferry Melchels
Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering

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