Predictions of tumour morphological stability and evaluation against experimental observations

Kara Pham, Hermann B. Frieboes, Vittorio Cristini, John Lowengrub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The hallmark of malignant tumours is their spread into neighbouring tissue and metastasis to distant organs, which can lead to life threatening consequences. One of the defining characteristics of aggressive tumours is an unstable morphology, including the formation of invasive fingers and protrusions observed both in vitro and in vivo. In spite of extensive biological, clinical and modelling study and research at physical scales ranging from the molecular to the tissue, the driving dynamics of tumour invasiveness are not completely understood, partly because it is challenging to observe and study cancer as a multi-scale system. Mathematical modelling has been applied to provide further insights into these complex invasive and metastatic behaviours. Modelling a solid tumour as an incompressible fluid, we consider three possible constitutive relations to describe tumour growth, namely Darcy's law, Stokes' law and the combined Darcy-Stokes law. We study the tumour morphological stability described by each model and evaluate the consistency between theoretical model predictions and experimental data from in vitro three-dimensional multicellular tumour spheroids. The analysis reveals that the Stokes model is the most consistent with the experimental observations, and that it predicts our experimental tumour growth is marginally stable. We further show that it is feasible to extract parameter values from a limited set of data and create a self-consistent modelling framework that can be extended to the multi-scale study of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-29
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number54
StatePublished - Jan 6 2011


  • Darcy's law
  • Mathematical model
  • Morphological stability
  • Stokes and Darcy-Stokes flow
  • Tumour growth
  • Tumour spheroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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