Cancer Breakthrough: 3D Printing Gives Cancer Survivor a Second Chance, Prosthetic Jaw Created

By Jericho Miller, Parent Herald July 08, 12:10 am

Cancer is one of those diseases that can take a lot out of you, both figuratively and literally. Unfortunately for Indiana's Shirley Anderson, his cancer was more of a case of the latter. When doctors found a considerably large cancerous lump on his tongue back in 1998, the radiation treatment and chemotherapy that were needed to cure him cost him his lower jaw.

Doctors and various other experts have attempted to give Anderson his lower jaw back. Gizmodo Australia reports that doctors attempted to place a radium implant in Anderson to help replace even just a portion of his mandible, but this did not last. Shirley Anderson is now turning to prosthetics to give him an answer to his prayers and Dr. Travis Bellicchi may have exactly what he needs.

Dr. Bellicchi is a maxillofacial prosthodontics resident at Indiana University. He originally made a traditional clay prosthetic lower jaw for Anderson, but it proved to be too uncomfortable resulting in him only being able to wear it for four hours a day. To remedy this problem, Bellicchi turned to some technology: 3D printing.

With some help from Formlabs, Bellicchi and his team were able to create a bespoke prosthetic for Anderson, which he could comfortably wear for long periods of time. The process was complicated, but proved to be highly successful. 3D printing has been effectively used to create prosthetic limbs for people, but this is one of the few cases of a mandible being created using the same technique.

A digital model of Shirley Anderson's face was created to capture his bone detail. This would allow for a lighter and better-fitting prosthesis to be made. This similar method has so far been used on six other patients. "My motivation to use traditional materials is that they are predictable, they are bio-compatible, they have research behind them, and we know how to do the characterization to make them lifelike," Bellicchi said.


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