Angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels from a pre-existing vasculature, is a process whereby capillary sprouts are formed in response to externally supplied chemical stimuli. The sprouts then grow and develop, driven initially by endothelial cell migration, and organize themselves into a branched, connected network structure. Subsequent cell proliferation near the sprout-tip permits further extension of the capillary and ultimately completes the process. Angiogenesis occurs during embryogenesis, wound healing, arthritis and during the growth of solid tumours. In this paper we initially generate theoretical capillary networks (which are morphologically similar to those networks observed in vivo) using the discrete mathematical model of Anderson and Chaplain. This discrete model describes the formation of a capillary sprout network via endothelial cell migratory and proliferative responses to external chemical stimuli (tumour angiogenic factors, TAF) supplied by a nearby solid tumour, and also the endothelial cell interactions with the extracellular matrix. The main aim of this paper is to extend this work to examine fluid flow through these theoretical network structures. In order to achieve this we make use of flow modelling tools and techniques (specifically, flow through interconnected networks) from the field of petroleum engineering. Having modelled the flow of a basic fluid through our network, we then examine the effects of fluid viscosity, blood vessel size (i.e., diameter of the capillaries), and network structure/geometry, upon: (i) the rate of flow through the network; (ii) the amount of fluid present in the complete network at any one time; and (iii) the amount of fluid reaching the tumour. The incorporation of fluid flow through the generated vascular networks has highlighted issues that may have major implications for the study of nutrient supply to the tumour (blood/oxygen supply) and, more importantly, for the delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs to the tumour. Indeed, there are also implications for the delivery of anti-angiogenesis drugs to the network itself. Results clearly highlight the important roles played by the structure and morphology of the network, which is, in turn, linked to the size and geometry of the nearby tumour. The connectedness of the network, as measured by the number of loops formed in the network (the anastomosis density), is also found to be of primary significance. Moreover, under certain conditions, the results of our flow simulations show that an injected chemotherapy drug may bypass the tumour altogether.
- Mathematical modelling
- Chemotherapy strategies