gms | German Medical Science

56. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie e. V. (DGNC)
3èmes journées françaises de Neurochirurgie (SFNC)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie e. V.
Société Française de Neurochirurgie

07. bis 11.05.2005, Strasbourg

Is the invasive growth pattern of malignant gliomas determined by the physical structure of the brain? : results of a computer simulation

Wird das invasive Wachstumsmuster maligner Gliome durch die physikalische Struktur des Gehirns verursacht? : Ergebnisse einer Computersimulation

Meeting Abstract

  • M. Wurzel - Zentrum für Hochleistungsrechnen (ZHR) der TU Dresden
  • C. Schaller - Neurochirurgische Universitätsklinik Bonn
  • corresponding author M. Simon - Neurochirurgische Universitätsklinik Bonn
  • A. Deutsch - Zentrum für Hochleistungsrechnen (ZHR) der TU Dresden

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie. Société Française de Neurochirurgie. 56. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie e.V. (DGNC), 3èmes journées françaises de Neurochirurgie (SFNC). Strasbourg, 07.-11.05.2005. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2005. Doc09.05.-18.01

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: May 4, 2005

© 2005 Wurzel et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.




Malignant gliomas are characterized by their highly infiltrative growth pattern which ultimately results in distant and multifocal tumour recurrence despite aggressive loco-regional therapy. Clinical, radiological and pathological evidence suggests that spreading of the tumour cells might be guided by fiber tracts within the white matter of the brain. In order to better understand the role of fiber tract anatomy during glioma invasion, we introduce computer simulations with a new mathematical model.


A simple lattice-gas cellular automaton model is used to simulate glioma growth and invasion. We consider healthy immobile brain tissue and potentially mobile malignant cells. Malignant cells may move or rest and only resting malignant cells proliferate (‘Go or grow’ hypothesis). Movement and resting behaviour are controlled by local cell densities and density gradients of brain and cancer cells. Chemotaxis and any cellular interactions independent of cell densities are not explicitly included in the model. The brain tissue is destroyed by cancer cells and it is assumed that the brain cannot regenerate. The physical structure of the brain, in particular its white matter tracts, are modelled as a prepattern represented by a vector field which introduces unidirectional persistence of malignant cell movement.


We only observed invading tumour cells and growing tumour islets in front of the expanding tumour bulk (i.e. the growth pattern typically observed in clinical practice), when the prepattern was included in the simulations. No density gradients of brain or tumour cells are required to observe this behaviour. Without the influence of the prepattern (i.e. when the physical structure of the brain surrounding the tumour is neglected), only isolated glioma cells are found in the vicinity of the main tumour bulk.


Our results suggest that the infiltrative growth of malignant gliomas could be, in part, determined by the physical structure of the surrounding brain rather than by intrinsic properties of the tumour cells. Targeting the substrate of invasion instead of the tumour cells might prove a superior anti-invasion treatment strategy for malignant gliomas.