Regulation of tumor invasion by interstitial fluid flow

Phys Biol. 2011 Feb;8(1):015012. doi: 10.1088/1478-3975/8/1/015012. Epub 2011 Feb 7.


The importance of the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression is undisputed, yet the significance of biophysical forces in the microenvironment remains poorly understood. Interstitial fluid flow is a nearly ubiquitous and physiologically relevant biophysical force that is elevated in tumors because of tumor-associated angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, as well as changes in the tumor stroma. Not only does it apply physical forces to cells directly, but interstitial flow also creates gradients of soluble signals in the tumor microenvironment, thus influencing cell behavior and modulating cell-cell interactions. In this paper, we highlight our current understanding of interstitial fluid flow in the context of the tumor, focusing on the physical changes that lead to elevated interstitial flow, how cells sense flow and how they respond to changes in interstitial flow. In particular, we emphasize that interstitial flow can directly promote tumor cell invasion through a mechanism known as autologous chemotaxis, and indirectly support tumor invasion via both biophysical and biochemical cues generated by stromal cells. Thus, interstitial fluid flow demonstrates how important biophysical factors are in cancer, both by modulating cell behavior and coupling biophysical and biochemical signals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Fluid / chemistry*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Rheology
  • Tumor Microenvironment*