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Volume 2013, Article ID 143589, 17 pages
Review Article

Free-Radical Polymer Science Structural Cancer Model: A Review

Department of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, SDB 539, 1919 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA

Received 2 December 2012; Accepted 20 December 2012

Academic Editors: S. Fukushige, K. Jung, and S.-Y. Shieh

Copyright © 2013 Richard C. Petersen. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Polymer free-radical lipid alkene chain-growth biological models particularly for hypoxic cellular mitochondrial metabolic waste can be used to better understand abnormal cancer cell morphology and invasive metastasis. Without oxygen as the final electron acceptor for mitochondrial energy synthesis, protons cannot combine to form water and instead mitochondria produce free radicals and acid during hypoxia. Nonuniform bond-length shrinkage of membranes related to erratic free-radical covalent crosslinking can explain cancer-cell pleomorphism with epithelial-mesenchymal transition for irregular membrane borders that “ruffle” and warp over stiff underlying actin fibers. Further, mitochondrial hypoxic conditions produce acid that can cause molecular degradation. Subsequent low pH-activated enzymes then provide paths for invasive cell movement through tissue and eventually blood-born metastasis. Although free-radical crosslinking creates irregularly shaped membranes with structural actin-polymerized fiber extensions as filopodia and lamellipodia, due to rapid cell division the overall cell modulus (approximately stiffness) is lower than normal cells. When combined with low pH-activated enzymes and lower modulus cells, smaller cancer stem cells subsequently have a large advantage to follow molecular destructive pathways and leave the central tumor. In addition, forward structural spike-like lamellipodia protrusions can leverage to force lower-modulus cancer cells through narrow openings. By squeezing and deforming even smaller to allow for easier movement through difficult passageways, cancer cells can travel into adjacent tissues or possibly metastasize through the blood to new tissue.