A mathematical model of tumor growth and its response to single irradiation

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Background: Mathematical modeling of biological processes is widely used to enhance quantitative understanding of bio-medical phenomena. This quantitative knowledge can be applied in both clinical and experimental settings. Recently, many investigators began studying mathematical models of tumor response to radiation therapy. We developed a simple mathematical model to simulate the growth of tumor volume and its response to a single fraction of high dose irradiation. The modelling study may provide clinicians important insights on radiation therapy strategies through identification of biological factors significantly influencing the treatment effectiveness. Methods: We made several key assumptions of the model. Tumor volume is composed of proliferating (or dividing) cancer cells and non-dividing (or dead) cells. Tumor growth rate (or tumor volume doubling time) is proportional to the ratio of the volumes of tumor vasculature and the tumor. The vascular volume grows slower than the tumor by introducing the vascular growth retardation factor, θ. Upon irradiation, the proliferating cells gradually die over a fixed time period after irradiation. Dead cells are cleared away with cell clearance time. The model was applied to simulate pre-treatment growth and post-treatment radiation response of rat rhabdomyosarcoma tumors and metastatic brain tumors of five patients who were treated with Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery (GKSRS). Results: By selecting appropriate model parameters, we showed the temporal variation of the tumors for both the rat experiment and the clinical GKSRS cases could be easily replicated by the simple model. Additionally, the application of our model to the GKSRS cases showed that the α-value, which is an indicator of radiation sensitivity in the LQ model, and the value of θ could be predictors of the post-treatment volume change. Conclusions: The proposed model was successful in representing both the animal experimental data and the clinically observed tumor volume changes. We showed that the model can be used to find the potential biological parameters, which may be able to predict the treatment outcome. However, there is a large statistical uncertainty of the result due to the small sample size. Therefore, a future clinical study with a larger number of patients is needed to confirm the finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalTheoretical Biology and Medical Modelling
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Gamma knife
  • Mathematical model
  • Radiation effect
  • Tumor volume

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