Oxygen diffusion in ellipsoidal tumour spheroids

David Grimes, Frederick Currell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
242 Downloads (Pure)


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. Multicellular 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 breakdown 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
Article number20180256
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalJournal of the Royal Society, Interface
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2018


  • oxygen
  • tumour
  • modelling


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