Review Article

The solid mechanics of cancer and strategies for improved therapy

[+] Author and Article Information
Triantafyllos Stylianopoulos

ASME Membership Cancer Biophysics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, 1678, Cyprus

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4034991 History: Received June 01, 2016; Revised October 06, 2016


Tumor progression and response to treatment is determined in large part by the generation of mechanical stresses that stem from both the solid and the fluid phase of the tumor. Furthermore, elevated solid stress levels can regulate fluid stresses by compressing intratumoral blood and lymphatic vessels. Blood vessel compression reduces tumor perfusion, while compression of lymphatic vessels hinders the ability of the tumor to drain excessive fluid from its interstitial space contributing to the uniform elevation of the interstitial fluid pressure. Hypo-perfusion and interstitial hypertension pose major barriers to the systemic administration of chemotherapeutic agents and nanomedicines to tumors, reducing treatment efficacies. Hypo-perfusion can also create a hypoxic and acidic tumor microenvironment that promotes tumor progression and metastasis. Hence, alleviation of intratumoral solid stress levels can decompress tumor vessels and restore perfusion and interstitial fluid pressure. In this review, three major types of tissue level solid stresses involved in tumor growth, namely stress exerted externally on the tumor by the host tissue, swelling stress and residual stress are discussed separately and details are provided regarding their causes, magnitudes and remedies. Subsequently, evidence of how stress-alleviating drugs could be used in combination with chemotherapy to improve treatment efficacy is presented, highlighting the potential of stress-alleviation strategies to enhance cancer therapy. Finally, a continuum-level, mathematical framework to incorporate these types of solid stress is outlined.

Copyright (c) 2016 by ASME
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