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3D printing, robotic surgery to create custom implants for bone cancer patients in Australian research project

Photo credit: Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre

A new
Australian research project
aims to transform the way physicians surgically
treat tumours and bone cancer, and dramatically improve patient and healthcare
outcomes. The five-year project, “Just in time implants”, brings together the
Australian Government, RMIT University, the University of Technology Sydney
(UTS), St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and global medical technology firm
Stryker.

Lead researcher, RMIT’s Professor Milan Brandt, and the
project team will combine 3D printing, robotic surgery and advanced
manufacturing to create tailored implants for patients with bone cancer. While
patients are having their cancer removed in the operating theatre, in the next
room, a custom implant will be printed to precisely fill the space left after
removal of the diseased bone.

“Our aim is to bring the technology to the theatre,” Professor
Brandt said.

The AU$12.1 million research effort is funded by Stryker,
with co-funding from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), under the Australian Governments' Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which is contributing AU$2.36
million in cash.

St Vincent’s Hospital’s Professor Peter Choong said just in
time implants will transform the delivery of care for people with bone cancer.
“By combining specialised imaging techniques, 3D printing and the accuracy of
robotic assisted surgery, we are aiming to deliver a personalised implant in
time for the surgeon to remove the cancer and repair the patient’s bone in the
one operation,” Choong said. “This process will expand the surgical options
available to patients and surgeons and increase the potential for limb saving
surgery.”

The novel process represents a major shift in the way
implants are designed, manufactured and supplied and could lead to bespoke
local manufacturing.

David Chuter, IMCRC CEO and Managing Director said that the
project was a great example of how research-led innovation in manufacturing
drives better products, services and processes.

“This is a significant research investment into Australia by
Stryker – seeing a global organisation collaborating with two Australian
universities and a local hospital. It highlights how Australia’s medtech
environment offers research partners a unique setting for innovative research
programs,” said Mr. Chuter.

“Specifically, this project will establish advanced
manufacturing capabilities that will ensure competitive advantage domestically
and internationally. It will also train a new generation of engineers and
researchers in medical robotics and the additive manufacturing of medical
implants,” he added.

Professor Emmanuel Josserand, Director of the Centre for
Business and Social Innovation at UTS, said the project would also have a wider
impact for business and the economy, as Australia transitions from traditional
to advanced manufacturing.

“Not only will there be direct business opportunities for
Australian companies to become medical suppliers to Stryker, with its global
supply chains, but there will also be an opportunity for the technologies and
manufacturing know-how developed within this project to transfer over time to
other local industries,” Professor Josserand said.

“These sorts of advanced manufacturing capabilities will
ensure competitive advantage for Australian businesses, domestically and
internationally.”