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Hydrogel may help doctors target tumors in cancer treatment

Doctors would be able to test and identify the best drug for a patient's cancer within a couple of weeks, scientists say.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 21, 2016 at 12:08 PM

BRISBANE, Australia, March 21 (UPI) -- Scientists in Australia created a hydrogel that mimics human tissue, allowing cancer drugs to be tested against tumor samples for efficacy in potential treatment.

The 3D-printed gel is is based on collagen and can be used to create microenvironments that, when infused with tumor cells, create models of a patient's cancer, scientists at Queensland University of Technology report in a study published in Nature Protocols.

"Instead of the sometimes hit and miss chemotherapy that affects every cell in the body this will allow us to test different anti-cancer drugs and different combinations of them all at once so that we can pinpoint an individualised treatment that will hit only the cancer cells," Dr. Dietmar Hutmacher, a professor at Queensland University of Technology, in a press release. "It will cut the process of finding a personalized treatment for each patient down to a week or two."

The gelatin methacryloyl-based hydrogel can be created in one to two weeks and can be modified to mimic the firmness of cartilage or the softness of breast tissue. Once infused with cells from a patient's tumor, the scientists say several drugs can be tested simultaneously.

The scientists said their accomplishment, beyond finding the hydrogel allows for drug testing, is quality control to allow researchers to easily reproduce it.

"Our big breakthrough is we can produce this high-quality material on a very large scale inexpensively," Hutmacher said. "It is highly reproducible which means we have been able to produce this hydrogel hundreds of times, not just once or twice in the lab, so researchers worldwide will be able to create it."

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