3D printing is being utilized by the National University of Colombia to minimize the harm caused by radiation therapy.


Radiation therapy has long been a vital treatment for cancer patients, but its side effects and limitations have often caused significant damage to the body. However, recent advancements in 3D printing technology have brought hope for a more effective solution.

In the past, radiation therapy involved focusing radiation exposure on the targeted area of the cancer, which often resulted in damage to surrounding organs and tissues. To mitigate this issue, a material called a bolus was introduced. This bolus, which is equivalent to tissue, reduces the depth of the maximum radiation dose. It is a flexible material that can adapt to the curvatures of the body, improving the distribution of radiation and minimizing harm to healthy tissue.

Different types of boluses are used depending on factors such as the tumor’s location, the depth of radiation, and the patient’s characteristics. Common materials include plastics and silicone. However, researchers at the National University of Colombia have recently developed a potentially more effective bolus made from 3D printed material.

Traditionally, boluses have been made from petroleum-derived materials, such as kerosene, which do not adapt well to the patient’s body. This often results in air pockets that affect the accuracy of the radiation dose. Karen Marcela Carrillo Chacón, a master’s degree holder in Medical Physics from UNAL, sought to optimize the 3D printing of boluses for radiotherapy treatments.

By using 3D printing, customized boluses can be created for each patient, tailoring the material to their specific needs. This innovation improves the distribution of radiation, reducing damage to surrounding organs and tissue. Working in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Colombia, Karen achieved promising results using ABS and PLA materials.

The printed boluses were subjected to rigorous radiotherapy tests, including treating complex tumors with photons, destroying superficial cancer cells with electrons, and using brachytherapy with the radioactive isotope iridium-192. The results were encouraging, with the 3D printed boluses closely resembling commercial boluses used in radiotherapy.

Karen’s research was supported by the Tunja hospital in Boyacá, which loaned its 3D printers for the project. Despite the scarcity of 3D printing technology in Colombian hospitals, this collaboration allowed Karen to explore the full potential of 3D printing in radiotherapy.

The advantages of 3D printing in this field are numerous. It enables the customization of boluses to meet the unique needs of individual patients, even in complex areas like the breast or face where radiotherapy is typically challenging. This breakthrough has the potential to revolutionize radiation therapy, improving treatment outcomes and reducing side effects.

The use of 3D printed boluses in radiotherapy marks a significant step forward in the field of medical physics. This technology has the potential to benefit countless cancer patients worldwide, providing them with more effective and personalized treatment options. As researchers continue to explore the possibilities of 3D printing in healthcare, we can look forward to further breakthroughs that will transform the medical landscape.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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