Biomechanical modelling of spinal tumor anisotropic growth

Biomechanical abnormalities of solid tumours involve stiffening of the tissue and accumulation of mechanical stresses. Both abnormalities affect cancer cell proliferation and invasiveness and thus, play a crucial role in tumour morphology and metastasis. Even though, it has been known for more than two decades that high mechanical stresses reduce cancer cell proliferation rates driving growth towards low-stress regions, most biomechanical models of tumour growth account for isotropic growth. This cannot be valid, however, in tumours that grow within multiple host tissues of different mechanical properties, such as the spine. In these cases, structural heterogeneity would result in anisotropic growth of tumours. To this end, we present a biomechanical, biphasic model for anisotropic growth of spinal tumours. The model that accounts for both the fluid and the solid phase of the tumour was used to predict the evolution of solid stress and interstitial fluid pressure in intramedullary spinal tumours and highlight the differences between isotropic and anisotropic growth. Varying the degree of anisotropy, we found considerable differences in the shape of the tumours, leading to tumours of more realistic ellipsoidal shapes.