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Phys Biol. 2007 Dec 17;4(4):P1-6. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/4/4/P01.

Physical aspects of cancer invasion.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Torino, Torino, Italy. CNISM, Torino, Italy.


Invasiveness, one of the hallmarks of tumor progression, represents the tumor's ability to expand into the host tissue by means of several complex biochemical and biomechanical processes. Since certain aspects of the problem present a striking resemblance with well-known physical mechanisms, such as the mechanical insertion of a solid inclusion in an elastic material specimen (G Eaves 1973 The invasive growth of malignant tumours as a purely mechanical process J. Pathol. 109 233; C Guiot, N Pugno and P P Delsanto 2006 Elastomechanical model of tumor invasion Appl. Phys. Lett. 89 233901) or a water drop impinging on a surface (C Guiot, P P Delsanto and T S Deisboeck 2007 Morphological instability and cancer invasion: a 'splashing water drop' analogy Theor. Biol. Med. Model 4 4), we propose here an analogy between these physical processes and a cancer system's invasive branching into the surrounding tissue. Accounting for its solid and viscous properties, we then arrive, as a unifying model, to an analogy with a granular solid. While our model has been explicitly formulated for multicellular tumor spheroids in vitro, it should also contribute to a better understanding of tumor invasion in vivo.

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