A team with the B.C. Cancer Agency in Prince George was inspired by a local art gallery's 3D printer to develop an innovative, gentler way to create moulds for radiation therapy.

Medical physicist Piotr Dubrowski ​had a patient with a facial tumor, who had a lot of pain and claustrophobia.

Dubrowski said that, traditionally, plaster is applied directly to the patient's face to create a mould used during radiation treatment.

But he was inspired to try something different and entered into a unique partnership with the Two Rivers Gallery, which had bought a 3D printer last fall. Dubrowski thought the printer could be used to build the mould out of plastic instead.

"We realized that by scanning the patient's face, and printing it, we could avoid having the patient actually have to sit through us making this mould," he said.

So Dubrowski took the scan of the patient's face to the art gallery and printed what looked like a blue plastic mask.

He said it is the first time a 3D printer has been used in radiation therapy in B.C, and he is excited at further possibilities to develop scan-and-print products for less invasive treatments.

"For patients with a high pain level, or with claustrophobia, it's nice because it's very, very non-invasive for the patient. It's a quick scan, and we can send the patient home. And then we take the time that we need to create these moulds. And then when the patient arrives, everything's ready for them to begin treatment."

Dubrowski said he hopes to continue partnering with the gallery to develop other specialized products.  

With files from the CBC's Marissa Harvey