Instable blood supply may help healthy cells compete with tumor cells

Researchers of CWI’s Scientific Computing group have found that instabilities in the blood supply in cancerous tissue can, surprisingly, lead to a less favorable environment for tumor cells. Their findings shed light on the potential negative side effects of current treatments that aim to actually normalize the blood supply in cancerous tissues.

Publication date: 25-07-2017

Researchers of CWI’s Scientific Computing research group have found that instabilities in the blood supply in cancerous tissue can, surprisingly, lead to a less favorable environment for tumor cells. To reach this conclusion, they used a cell-based computational model. Their findings shed light on the potential negative side effects of current treatments that aim to actually normalize the blood supply in cancerous tissues.

In a cancerous tissue, healthy cells are forced to compete with tumor cells for nutrients and growth space. An important factor in the outcome of this competition is the environment of the competing cells, such as their neighboring cells and blood supply. This complex interaction results in behavior that is difficult to predict. CWI researchers have now introduced a cell-based computational model to solve one piece of the puzzle: they studied the effects of blood flow obstruction on the evolution of cells within a cancerous tissue. The research team demonstrated that instabilities in blood supply can impact the overall development of tumors. Whereas aggressive tumor cells are often the strongest competitors in stable environments, it turns out that more slowly growing cancer cells are actually more resilient when the blood supply becomes erratic. In fact, instabilities in blood supply can lead to the extinction of the aggressive cells.

Recent approaches to tackle tumors aim to actually normalize the tumor vasculature, and thus increase the stability of the blood supply. The new study provides insights into potential, surprisingly negative side effects of that approach.

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