Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and materials and biomedical engineers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) including McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Adam Feinberg, PhD, associate professor in CMU’s departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, will address the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of a non-invasive precancerous breast tumor by creating the first-ever 3D bioprinted breast ductal structure to identify markers for low-risk premalignant disease.
The scientists were awarded nearly $800,000 in a 2-year grant from the U.S. Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program of the Department of Defense.
Improvements in mammography screening have resulted in earlier detection of invasive breast cancer, and this is also associated with an increase in the detection of non-invasive breast cancer, such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – the earliest form of breast cancer where the disease has not spread out of the milk duct. Over 60,000 women are diagnosed with DCIS each year, and the majority of non-invasive lesions will not progress to invasive diseases if left untreated. However, the majority of these women undergo unnecessary surgeries, treatments, and therapy.
“More research is required to identify the minority of DCIS lesions that will progress to invasive disease and thus require treatment,” explained Adrian Lee, PhD, professor of pharmacology and chemical biology at UPCI. “Our hope is that our research will reveal novel biomarkers that will be useful for predicting which DCIS are likely to progress. We can then offer personalized therapy to those who require intervention, while reducing the overtreatment of DCIS in those who don’t. This could have a major impact upon thousands of women each year.”
UPCI researchers will collaborate with materials and biomedical engineers at CMU and use 3D bioprinting to print a breast ductal system in the laboratory. They will then grow DCIS cells in the printed duct. By printing a replica of a mouse ductal system, experts will be able to create a unique model to study why some DCIS progress to invasion while others remain indolent. Genes involved in progression may serve as biomarkers indicating the need to treat DCIS.
“3D bioprinting is transforming how we can build tissues. By allowing us to use medical imaging data to accurately recreate complex biology, this has the potential to revolutionize bioengineering and tissue regeneration,” said Dr. Feinberg. “Printing of cells and organs has been challenging because these are soft materials. Our novel technology solves this, and we are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues at UPCI to advance our understanding of DCIS and invasion.”