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J R Soc Interface. 2011 Mar 6;8(56):345-68. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0285. Epub 2010 Jul 23.

The radial growth phase of malignant melanoma: multi-phase modelling, numerical simulations and linear stability analysis.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l'École Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, F75231 Paris Cedex 05, France. pasquale.ciarletta@lps.ens.fr


Cutaneous melanoma is disproportionately lethal despite its relatively low incidence and its potential for cure in the early stages. The aim of this study is to foster understanding of the role of microstructure on the occurrence of morphological changes in diseased skin during melanoma evolution. The authors propose a biomechanical analysis of its radial growth phase, investigating the role of intercellular/stromal connections on the initial stages of epidermis invasion. The radial growth phase of a primary melanoma is modelled within the multi-phase theory of mixtures, reproducing the mechanical behaviour of the skin layers and of the epidermal-dermal junction. The theoretical analysis takes into account those cellular processes that have been experimentally observed to disrupt homeostasis in normal epidermis. Numerical simulations demonstrate that the loss of adhesiveness of the melanoma cells both to the basal laminae, caused by deregulation mechanisms of adherent junctions, and to adjacent keratynocytes, consequent to a downregulation of E-cadherin, are the fundamental biomechanical features for promoting tumour initiation. Finally, the authors provide the mathematical proof of a long wavelength instability of the tumour front during the early stages of melanoma invasion. These results open the perspective to correlate the early morphology of a growing melanoma with the biomechanical characteristics of its micro-environment.

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