Brummer, Alexander B. and Van M. Savage
Biological allometries, such as the scaling of metabolism to mass, are hypothesized to result from natural selection to maximize how vascular networks fill space yet minimize internal transport distances and resistance to blood flow. Metabolic scaling theory argues two guiding principles-conservation of fluid flow and space-filling fractal distributions-describe a diversity of biological networks and predict how the geometry of these networks influences organismal metabolism. Yet, mostly absent from past efforts are studies that directly, and independently, measure metabolic rate from respiration and vascular architecture for the same organ, organism, or tissue. Lack of these measures may lead to inconsistent results and conclusions about metabolism, growth, and allometric scaling. We present simultaneous and consistent measurements of metabolic scaling exponents from clinical images of lung cancer, serving as a first-of-its-kind test of metabolic scaling theory, and identifying potential quantitative imaging biomarkers indicative of tumor growth. We analyze data for 535 clinical PET-CT scans of patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma to establish the presence of metabolic scaling between tumor metabolism and tumor volume. Furthermore, we use computer vision and mathematical modeling to examine predictions of metabolic scaling based on the branching geometry of the tumor-supplying blood vessel networks in a subset of 56 patients diagnosed with stage II-IV lung cancer. Examination of the scaling of maximum standard uptake value with metabolic tumor volume, and metabolic tumor volume with gross tumor volume, yield metabolic scaling exponents of 0.64 (0.20) and 0.70 (0.17), respectively. We compare these to the value of 0.85 (0.06) derived from the geometric scaling of the tumor-supplying vasculature. These results: (1) inform energetic models of growth and development for tumor forecasting; (2) identify imaging biomarkers in vascular geometry related to blood volume and flow; and (3) highlight unique opportunities to develop and test the metabolic scaling theory of ecology in tumors transitioning from avascular to vascular geometries.