Cell proliferation and cell diffusion seem to be important quantities to estimate when trying to understand or measure tumor growth, but I don't really understand a) the difference between them or b) their relationship to tumor growth.

Cell proliferation refers to cellular subdivision. This doesn't necessarily mean tumor growth because something can subdivide but still have the same net mass, right?

Cell diffusion on the other hand, refers to changes in cell density. Supposing cell proliferation is constant and we have positive diffusion, that would mean that cells are 'spreading out' (ie the mass is less dense but bigger). Is this correct? Would positive diffusion be equivalent to tumor growth?

This question came up when reading this paper. It talks about estimating diffusion and proliferation parameters in order to solve the reaction-diffusion equation which is, in turn, used to model tumor growth.

  • $\begingroup$ I would also like to see a reference to these terms if you have one. $\endgroup$
    – Bob
    Mar 8, 2017 at 22:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A tumor by definition is an abnormal proliferation of cells but I don't think diffusion has anything to do with cells actually diffusing. Rather, the carrying capacity of a tumor depends on such parameters as nutrients or oxygen, which must diffuse further inwards until they cannot reach cells. Hence, the core of large solid tumors tends to be necrotic. It's also my understanding that there is a natural pressure that forces older cells inwards to the core of the tumor, as the outside layers continue to divide and grow outwards, increasing the diameter of the tumor. $\endgroup$
    – CKM
    Mar 9, 2017 at 0:37


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