Professor Dietmar W Hutmacher: “There is no other group in the world that has this data set and we have had a lot of interest from patients, surgeons and bigger companies looking at our technology.” Picture: Peter Wallis
Professor Dietmar W Hutmacher: “There is no other group in the world that has this data set and we have had a lot of interest from patients, surgeons and bigger companies looking at our technology.” Picture: Peter Wallis

3D breast cancer breakthrough

WOMEN who have had a mastectomy could soon regrow their own breasts with a Queensland scientist on the cusp of a world-first medical breakthrough.

The research, which uses 3D printing technology, is now at the clinical trial phase and awaiting grants to go ahead.

If the trial goes well, Professor and Chair in Regenerative Medicine of the Queensland University of Technology Dietmar W. Hutmacher, said the technology could be ready for patients in as little as four years.

Scans are used to create a computer simulation of the area to be repaired or rebuilt.

Using biodegradable ­polymers, a 3D printer constructs a tailor-made scaffold of the body part. This is implanted in the body and injected with the patient's own cells and a growth enhancer.

The cells can either be taken from fat ­removed by liposuction or stem-cells drawn from bone marrow.

The human tissue grows into the highly porous scaffold, which then dissolves over time.

Prof Hutmacher said breast tissue would take nine to 18 months to grow.

"We have very good data in the preclinical model, so we have the data set and now all we need is the funding for the clinical trial," he said.

"There is no other group in the world that has this data set and we have had a lot of interest from patients, surgeons and bigger companies looking at our technology.

"If successful it would be my biggest achievement and the most rewarding, seeing something working in a ­patient and how it changes their life is the biggest reward you can get."

 

Jo Menken says the breakthrough will change lives. Picture: Liam Kidston
Jo Menken says the breakthrough will change lives. Picture: Liam Kidston

Prof Hutmacher said he was honoured to be awarded the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence, an annual award of $50,000, to a researcher that has made an outstanding discovery in clinical or experimental biomedical research.

"I should also mention this is not just my work this is a highly skilled interdisciplinary team of surgeons, PhD students, postdoctoral students and one should not forget the people in the background like our centre manager Joanne Richardson," he said.

One person who would have benefited from the technology is young mum Jo Menken who, in 2016, had both her breasts removed after testing positive to a genetic defect that put her at high risk of cancer.

"This will be life-changing for people," she said.

"Growing my own breasts would have been preferable to having implants. I don't feel like these are a part of me a lot of the time, they're just objects that are in there."

Ms Menken said discoveries such as this one were what spurred her along in her fundraising efforts - which comes in at $50,000 to date.