Document Type


Original Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC Research Notes





DOI of Original Publication



Originally published at

Date of Submission

August 2014



Despite constant progress, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States. The ability of tumors to metastasize is central to this dilemma, as many studies demonstrate successful treatment correlating to diagnosis prior to cancer spread. Hence a better understanding of cancer invasiveness and metastasis could provide critical insight.

Presentation of the hypothesis

We hypothesize that a systems biology-based comparison of cancer invasiveness and suburban sprawl will reveal similarities that are instructive.

Testing the hypothesis

We compare the structure and behavior of invasive cancer to suburban sprawl development. While these two systems differ vastly in dimension, they appear to adhere to scale-invariant laws consistent with invasive behavior in general. We demonstrate that cancer and sprawl have striking similarities in their natural history, initiating factors, patterns of invasion, vessel distribution and even methods of causing death.

Implications of the hypothesis

We propose that metastatic cancer and suburban sprawl provide striking analogs in invasive behavior, to the extent that conclusions from one system could be predictive of behavior in the other. We suggest ways in which this model could be used to advance our understanding of cancer biology and treatment.


© 2010 Ryan et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Is Part Of

VCU Biology Publications