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12Mar 2019

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Wilbert Zwart receives ASPIRE award for drug test on 3D printed matrix

Wilbert Zwart

The Mark Foundation has assigned an ASPIRE award to Wilbert Zwart from the Netherlands Cancer Institute. He is the only scientist outside the US to receive this award, and therefore 154.000 euro. He will use it to investigate a 3D-printed matrix on which metastasized breast cancer cells can grow. These cells' response to a drug hopefully predicts whether the corresponding patient will respond to that drug. 

For patients with metastasized breast cancer physicians can choose from different drugs. But what is the best choice? "Beforehand you can't always be sure which drug will work best in a patient", says scientist Wilbert Zwart of the Netherlands Cancer Institute. "So there is a need for tools to further improve this decision making." 

Tumoren op 3D matrix

That's why Zwart and his colleague Luis Solorio from Purdue University will investigate whether they can test cancer cells' sensitivity to medicines outside the body. They want to determine whether the response of the tumor cells outside the body is similar to the effects on the tumor in the patient. The 154.000 euro associated with the American Mark Foundation for Cancer Research ASPIRE award will allow them to briefly grow patients' metastasized breast cancer cells on a 3D-printed matrix (see image).

On these cells they will test the medicine the patient receives. Zwart: "We hope the reaction of the cells can predict whether a patient responds to the treatment. That's why we'll be comparing the faith of the cells on the 3D-matrix with the treatment results of the patient. If this technique works, it can be of great added value in the clinic. Also, this strategy would allow us to do clinically relevant research into the biology of metastasized cancer." 

Luis Solorio developed a cell support matrix on which metastasized breast cancer cells can grow very well. A 3D printer fabricates that matrix. The collaboration with the Purdue technical professor goes well with Zwart's chair at the Eindhoven University of Technology: "Big leaps in science often go hand in hand with technical innovations. At the same time the engineer needs the biological connection and clinical question to enable the best application of the new technology. The Netherlands Cancer Institute is an ideal setting for applying new technologies and refining them together." 

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