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Cancer is a heterogeneous disease and tumours of the same type can differ greatly at the genetic and phenotypic levels. Understanding how these differences impact sensitivity to treatment is an essential step towards patient-specific treatment design. In this paper, we investigate how two different mechanisms for growth control may affect tumour cell responses to fractionated radiotherapy (RT) by extending an existing ordinary differential equation model of tumour growth. In the absence of treatment, this model distinguishes between growth arrest due to nutrient insufficiency and competition for space and exhibits three growth regimes: nutrient limited, space limited (SL) and bistable (BS), where both mechanisms for growth arrest coexist. We study the effect of RT for tumours in each regime, finding that tumours in the SL regime typically respond best to RT, while tumours in the BS regime typically respond worst to RT. For tumours in each regime, we also identify the biological processes that may explain positive and negative treatment outcomes and the dosing regimen which maximises the reduction in tumour burden.

Original publication




Journal article


Bulletin of mathematical biology

Publication Date





Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford, OX2 6GG, UK.


Humans, Neoplasms, Models, Biological, Mathematical Concepts