23 March 2019
Brain tumor growth and tumor-induced edema result in increased intracranial pressure (ICP), which, in turn, is responsible for conditions as benign as headaches and vomiting or as severe as seizures, neurological damage, or even death. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that tracking ICP dynamics may offer improved prognostic potential in terms of early detection of brain cancer and better delimitation of the tumor boundary. However, translating such theory into clinical practice remains a challenge, in part because of an incomplete understanding of how ICP correlates with tumor grade. Here, we propose a multiphase mixture model that describes the biomechanical response of healthy brain tissue—in terms of changes in ICP and edema—to a growing tumor. The model captures ICP dynamics within the diseased brain and accounts for the ability/inability of healthy tissue to compensate for this pressure. We propose parameter regimes that distinguish brain tumors by grade, thereby providing critical insight into how ICP dynamics vary by severity of disease. In particular, we offer an explanation for clinically observed phenomena, such as a lack of symptoms in low-grade glioma patients versus a rapid onset of symptoms in those with malignant tumors. Our model also takes into account the effects tumor-derived proteases may have on ICP levels and the extent of tumor invasion. This work represents an important first step toward understanding the mechanisms that underlie the onset of edema and ICP in cancer-afflicted brains. Continued modeling effort in this direction has the potential to make an impact in the field of brain cancer diagnostics.
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