Oxygen diffusion in ellipsoidal tumour spheroids

David Robert Grimes, Frederick J. Currell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxygen plays a central role in cellular metabolism, in both healthy and tumour tissue. The presence and concentration of molecular oxygen in tumours has a substantial effect on both radiotherapy response and tumour evolution, and as a result the oxygen micro-environment is an area of intense research interest. Multi-cellular tumour spheroids closely mimic real avascular tumours, and in particular they exhibit physiologically relevant heterogeneous oxygen distribution. This property has made them a vital part of in vitro experimentation. For ideal spheroids, their heterogeneous oxygen distributions can be predicted from theory, allowing determination of cellular oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and anoxic extent. However, experimental tumour spheroids often depart markedly from perfect sphericity. There has been little consideration of this reality. To date, the question of how far an ellipsoid can diverge from perfect sphericity before spherical assumptions break down remains unanswered. In this work, we derive equations governing oxygen distribution (and, more generally, nutrient and drug distribution) in both prolate and oblate tumour ellipsoids, and quantify the theoretical limits of the assumption that the spheroid is a perfect sphere. Results of this analysis yield new methods for quantifying OCR in ellipsoidal spheroids, and how this can be applied to markedly increase experimental throughput and quality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number145
Early online date15 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Dalton Nuclear Institute


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