RBWH Foundation helps deliver world-first breast scaffold surgery

Thursday 4 August 2022

A world-first surgery at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) is paving the way for women globally who require breast reconstruction to access a safer-alternative to silicone implants, which will leave them with nothing but their own natural tissue within two years.

The revolutionary procedure, based on decades of research and in funding partnership with the RBWH Foundation, saw first clinical trial patient Moana Staunton have her silicone implants removed and replaced with a 3D printed bioresorbable scaffold.

The scaffold, produced by German-based MedTech company BellaSeno, was then injected with her own fat cells.

Former RBWH Foundation Board Member and Director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Institute (CBCI) Owen Ung and Director of the Herston Biofabrication Institute (HBI) Michael Wagels joined forces for the ground-breaking procedure which was undertaken on 23 June 2022.

The RBWH Foundation CEO Simone Garske said the surgery was an extraordinary example of the power of giving.

“The Foundation is the philanthropic partner of both HBI and the CBCI,” said Ms Garske. (pictured with Professor Owen Ung and Dr Michael Wagels)

“The vision of our donors in advancing patient care and life-saving research has enabled the RBWH Foundation to invest $5 million in the establishment of HBI, Australia’s first research facility focusing on 3D printing, scanning and modelling of medical devices, bone, cartilage and tissue.

“To witness such a powerful outcome of that work, to the benefit of women globally, is monumental as well as incredibly reassuring about the future of health care in Australia.”

CBCI’s Professor Owen Ung said Moana was just one of many women who had experienced breast implant illness, noting a range of unexplained symptoms she believed were linked to her implants.

“In Moana’s case, she was experiencing dizziness and generally feeling unwell, and we’ll often see patients who believe their silicone implants may be making them ill,” Professor Ung said.

“But it’s not just those experiencing complications from their implants that will benefit, as we roll out our clinical trial in patients just like Moana. We will be moving into further studies for those who have experienced cancer, changing the lives of women who require a mastectomy and have limited reconstructive options until now.

“We are still in Phase One of clinical trials but this work has hugely promising implications for women all over the world.”

The scaffold, made from a 3D printed medical-grade polycaprolactone-PCL which will completely dissolve and metabolise in the body, was finessed between CBCI, HBI and BellaSeno for months before being printed in Germany and sent to Brisbane for Moana’s procedure.

HBI’s Dr Michael Wagels said the work was made possible through years of research.

“Our Herston Biofabrication Institute colleague Professor Dietmar Hutmacher has, over many years, been instrumental in developing the science to get us to this point – the first successful realisation of this ground-breaking research in an actual patient,” Dr Wagels said.

“But it’s not just the extensive research that has made this possible – we’ve been aided by funding from a variety of partners including BellaSeno, Metro North Health, the RBWH Foundation, Department of Innovation, Tourism and Sport’s Advance Queensland grant, as well as imaging support from the Herston Imaging Research Facility.”

Co-Founder and CEO of BellaSeno Mohit Chhaya said the regenerative breast scaffold procedure’s success was an exciting milestone in the group’s plans to ultimately design and manufacture these in Australia.

“Our goal is to further advance novel products in the field of natural tissue and bone reconstruction, working with our key partners in Australia,” Professor Chhaya said.

“While this scaffold was made in Germany, we hope to soon be in Australia to provide this novel new medical solution to hundreds of thousands of breast cancer patients, avoiding the risks associated with implanting permanent foreign materials like silicone in the body.”

The Phase One clinical trial will recruit 15 – 20 eligible patients and will run until they each have received two years of follow up.

If you would like to support groundbreaking research like this, please donate today or contact RBWH Foundation Philanthropy and Development Director, Nadeyn Barbieri, at n.barbieri@rbwhfoundation.com.au or 0410 011446.