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3D-printed facial reconstruction solutions for cancer patients

In a significant stride towards revolutionising rehabilitation for head and neck cancer patients, Dr Liu has received $700,000 in funding.

In a significant stride towards revolutionising rehabilitation for head and neck cancer patients, Dr. Xiao Liu has received $700,000 to fund vital research into jaw reconstruction methods.

A researcher at the University of Wollongong, Dr. Xiao Liu  will be focused on developing a pioneering dental implant known as a 3D-printed resorbable scaffold. The funding announcement, which coincides with World Cancer Day, is the latest in a series of ‘mid-career fellowships’, collectively worth nearly $4m, granted by the Passe and Williams Foundation.

For patients who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, dental implants can be crucial for their quality of life post-treatment.

Liu stated, “Oral cancer ranks among the most prevalent cancers globally, often needing surgical intervention involving the partial removal of the jaw. 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.

“Our aim is to significantly improve the quality of life for post-cancer patients. We want to develop a hybrid 3D-printed scaffold that not only facilitates rapid osteogenesis, or bone growth, but is also partially resorbable – meaning it will naturally integrate with the surrounding tissue.”

While the ear, nose and throat (ENT) medical specialty can be an overlooked area of healthcare, the funding could mean a vital step forward for patients. Latest figures from Cancer Council estimate more than 5,300 Australians were newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2023.

“Receiving this Mid-Career Fellowship from the Passe and Williams Foundation is a testament to the importance of advancing research in the field of oral rehabilitation,” said Liu.

Patient Mandy Keleher, who was diagnosed with oral cancer in 2020 stated, “Oral cancer was not something I had ever heard of before my diagnosis, as it’s not something that’s often talked about. It was only after visiting the dentist that I was referred to the hospital for further checks, after developing bleeding gums and a growing gap in my tooth. I cannot praise the doctors and nurses who looked after me during that time enough, they were amazing. I think any research into these illnesses and how to improve quality of life for patients, can only be a good thing.”

CEO of the Passe and Williams Foundation, Dr Jeanette Pritchard said, “We are always thrilled to support the highest calibre projects and people. 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 Mid-Career Fellowship from the Passe and Williams Foundation will be used over the next four years to fund Liu’s research., enabling further development of cutting-edge technologies and methodologies in the creation of the 3D printed implant.

Pritchard said, “The University of Wollongong has a track record of supporting innovative research that has a tangible impact on society, and Dr. Liu’s work exemplifies this commitment. The funding from the Passe and Williams Foundation underscores the collaborative effort to advance scientific breakthroughs that can transform lives.”

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