The effect of interstitial pressure on tumor growth: Coupling with the blood and lymphatic vascular systems

M. Wu, H.B. Frieboes, S.R. McDougall, Mark A.J. Chaplain, Vittorio Cristini, J. Lowengrub

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174 Citations (Scopus)


The flow of interstitial fluid and the associated interstitial fluid pressure (IFP) in solid tumors and surrounding host tissues have been identified as critical elements in cancer growth and vascularization. Both experimental and theoretical studies have shown that tumors may present elevated IFP, which can be a formidable physical barrier for delivery of cell nutrients and small molecules into the tumor. Elevated IFP may also exacerbate gradients of biochemical signals such as angiogenic factors released by tumors into the surrounding tissues. These studies have helped to understand both biochemical signaling and treatment prognosis. Building upon previous work, here we develop a vascular tumor growth model by coupling a continuous growth model with a discrete angiogenesis model. We include fluid/oxygen extravasation as well as a continuous lymphatic field, and study the micro-environmental fluid dynamics and their effect on tumor growth by accounting for blood flow, transcapillary fluid flux, interstitial fluid flow, and lymphatic drainage. We thus elucidate further the non-trivial relationship between the key elements contributing to the effects of interstitial pressure in solid tumors. In particular, we study the effect of IFP on oxygen extravasation and show that small blood/lymphatic vessel resistance and collapse may contribute to lower transcapillary fluid/oxygen flux, thus decreasing the rate of tumor growth. We also investigate the effect of tumor vascular pathologies, including elevated vascular and interstitial hydraulic conductivities inside the tumor as well as diminished osmotic pressure differences, on the fluid flow across the tumor capillary bed, the lymphatic drainage, and the IFP. Our results reveal that elevated interstitial hydraulic conductivity together with poor lymphatic function is the root cause of the development of plateau profiles of the IFP in the tumor, which have been observed in experiments, and contributes to a more uniform distribution of oxygen, solid tumor pressure and a broad-based collapse of the tumor lymphatics. We also find that the rate that IFF is fluxed into the lymphatics and host tissue is largely controlled by an elevated vascular hydraulic conductivity in the tumor. We discuss the implications of these results on microenvironmental transport barriers, and the tumor invasive and metastatic potential. Our results suggest the possibility of developing strategies of targeting tumor cells based on the cues in the interstitial fluid. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-151
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013


  • Vascular growth
  • Angiogenesis
  • Microenvironmental transport barriers
  • interstitual fluid flow


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