New funding boosts dev’t of 3D-printed solution to facial reconstruction for cancer patients

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3D-printed solution to facial reconstruction for cancer patients. Image credit: Passe & Williams Foundation

Dr Xiao Liu from the University of Wollongong has obtained a significant grant of $700,000, marking a major advancement in improving the rehabilitation process for individuals who have undergone treatment for head and neck cancer.

The funding, announced on World Cancer Day on 4 February, will propel pioneering research into jaw reconstruction methods, with a focus on developing a revolutionary dental implant termed the ‘3D-printed resorbable scaffold.’

This funding marks the latest in a series of ‘mid-career fellowships’ totalling nearly $4 million, generously awarded by the Passe and Williams Foundation, as revealed in a news release.

Dr. Liu’s research targets a critical aspect of post-treatment quality of life for individuals who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, emphasising the significance of dental implants.

The researcher highlighted the essential nature of the study, stating, “Oral cancer ranks among the most prevalent cancers globally, often needing surgical intervention involving the partial removal of the jaw.”

She continued, “Unfortunately, this procedure can have a huge impact on the patient’s quality of life post-treatment, and many often struggle to reintegrate into their work and personal lives.”

In particular, the ambitious goal of Dr Liu’s project is to develop a hybrid 3D-printed scaffold that not only facilitates rapid bone growth (osteogenesis) but is also partially resorbable.

This innovative approach aims to naturally integrate the implant with surrounding tissue, offering a transformative solution for cancer survivors.

While the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) medical specialty often receives less attention, the foundation said this funding presents a vital step forward for patients.

According to Cancer Council figures, more than 5,300 Australians were newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2023.

Mandy Keleher, an oral cancer survivor diagnosed in February 2020, emphasised the need for increased awareness.

“Oral cancer was not something I had ever heard of before my diagnosis. Any research into these illnesses and how to improve the quality of life for patients can only be a good thing.”

Dr Jeanette Pritchard, CEO of the Passe and Williams Foundation, expressed enthusiasm for supporting Dr Liu’s research.

“Dr. Liu’s research has the potential to make a lasting impact on the field of oral rehabilitation and, most importantly, survivors of head and neck cancer.”

The four-year Mid-Career Fellowship from the Passe and Williams Foundation will enable Dr Liu to further advance his research, contributing to the development of cutting-edge technologies and methodologies in the creation of the 3D printed implant.

Dr Pritchard commended the University of Wollongong for its commitment to supporting innovative research that has a tangible impact on society, reinforcing collaborative efforts to advance scientific breakthroughs that can transform lives.

For more details about the project, visit passewilliams.org.au/awarded-projects.