3D printed phantom models from Russia could improve cancer radiation therapy
A team of scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Russia is developing a use for 3D printing which could help doctors verify and even improve radiotherapy treatment plans for cancer patients. The TPU researchers, who are working in collaboration with the Tomsk Cancer Research Institute on the project, have developed a method for 3D printing patient-specific dosimetry phantoms.
Dosimetry phantoms are, to put it plainly, physical models of the human body which are utilized by medical experts to map out and plan radiotherapy cancer treatments. The models, which are normally standardized and geometrically simple, empower specialists to verify treatment plans before each radiotherapy session with a specific end goal to diminish the danger of the treatment on the patient.
“There is no need to explain that radiotherapy is a serious medical manipulation associated with certain risks,” said Yuri Cherepennikov, a senior lecturer from the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle. “The more carefully the treatment plan is elaborated and verified, the more efficient it will be and the less healthy tissues will be affected.”
Cherepennikov, whose work is supported by a RF President Scholarship, goes ahead to clarify that while existing dosimetry phantoms are produced using polymer materials that have comparative densities to the averageindex of various tissues of the body, the 3D printed models can be customized to the patient in terms of anatomy and tissue density.
“We have developed a polymer material which is identical in density to the tissues of the body, and various additives allow creating analogues of a variety of tissues: bone, muscle, fat, and others,” he said. “We propose to create patient-specific models of the single body parts based on imaging data which are collected for each patient before radiotherapy; no additional manipulations are needed.”
So far, the researchers have demonstrated the ability to 3D print complex structures based on the anatomy of specific patients, while also mimicking the tissue density of that patient. Since they are custom-made, the 3D printed phantom models can also account for patients with implants or pacemakers.
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Using its current 3D printing method, the Russia-based team can turn out finished phantom models in two days or less, though it says that once the process is ready for market, it should not take more than 10 hours to produce a radiation model. In terms of cost, the project’s supervisor Sergey Stuchebrov says the goal is make the models for as little as 10,000 rubles (about $175).
Overall, the 3D printed dosimetry phantom models could improve the preparation conditions for radiotherapy treatments, which could in turn make cancer treatments more efficient and less hazardous to the patient.