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The Physics Behind Tumor Growth

Ehsan Samei (Radiology), Adrian Bejan (Mechanical Engineering), and Thomas “TJ” Sauer (Medical Physics PhD student) have developed a predictive theory for tumor growth that approaches the subject from a new point of view. Rather than focusing on the biological mechanisms of cellular growth, the researchers instead use thermodynamics and the physical space the tumor is expanding into, for the purpose of predicting its evolution from a single cell to a complex cancerous mass. In the Biosystems paper, they demonstrate how a tumor’s growth and internal reorganization as it grows are directly tied to its need to create greater access to flowing nutrients as well as conduits for removing refuse. They use these insights to predict the growth of cell clusters as a function of structure, and also to predict the critical cluster sizes that mark the transitions from one distinct configuration to the next. This collaboration arose after Dr. Bejan gave a talk in our Distinguished Lectures in Medical Physics series a few years ago. Doctoral student TJ Sauer is the first author of the paper, and his advisor Dr. Samei was the senior author.

Dr. Mary Klotman, Dean of the School of Medicine, tweeted: “This is a great example of how our One Duke philosophy encourages researchers to work together, across schools and disciplines, to make discoveries and solve real world problems.”

Read full press release here.