In silico investigations of intratumoral heterogeneous interstitial fluid pressure

J Theor Biol. 2021 Oct 7;526:110787. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2021.110787. Epub 2021 Jun 1.


Recent preclinical studies have shown that interstitial fluid pressure (IFP) within tumors can be heterogeneous Andersen et al. (2019). In that study tumors of two xenograft models, respectively, HL-16 cervical carcinoma and Panc-1 pancreatic carcinoma, were investigated. Significant heterogeneity in IFP was reported and it was proposed that this was associated with division of tissue into compartments separated by thick connective tissue bands for the HL-16 tumors and with dense collagen-rich extracellular matrix for the Panc-1 tumors. The purpose of the current work is to explore these experimental observations by using in silico generated tumor models. We consider a mathematical multiphase model which accounts for tumor cells, fibroblasts and interstitial fluid. The model has been trained to comply with experimental in vitro results reported in Shieh et al. (2011) which has identified autologous chemotaxis, ECM remodeling, and cell-fibroblast interaction as drivers for invasive tumor cell behavior. The in silico model is informed with parameters that characterize the leaky intratumoral vascular network, the peritumoral lymphatics which collect the fluid, and the density of ECM as represented through the hydraulic conductivity of the interstitial space. Heterogeneous distribution of solid stress may result in heterogeneous compression of blood vessels and, thus, heterogeneous vascular density inside the tumor. To mimic this we expose the in silico tumor to an intratumoral vasculature whose net effect of density of blood vesssels and vessel wall conductivity is varied through a 2D Gaussian variogram constrained such that the resulting IFPs lie within the range as reported from the preclinical study. The in silico cervical carcinoma model illustrates that sparse ECM was associated with uniform intratumoral IFP in spite of heterogeneous microvascular network, whereas compartment structures resulted in more heterogeneous IFP. Similarly, the in silico pancreatic model shows that heterogeneity in the microvascular network combined with dense ECM structure prevents IFP to even out and gives rise to heterogeneous IFP. The computer model illustrates how a heterogeneous invasive front might form where groups of tumor cells detach from the primary tumor and form isolated islands, a behavior which is natural to associate with metastatic propensity. However, unlike experimental studies, the current version of the in silico model does not show an association between metastatic propensity and elevated IFP.

Keywords: Cervical carcinoma; Interstitial fluid; Interstitial fluid pressure; Mathematical model; Metastatic propensity; Migration mechanism; Pancreatic carcinoma; Tumor progression.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Extracellular Fluid*
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Pressure