A non-equilibrium thermodynamic approach to symmetry breaking in cancer

Umberto Lucia, Giulia Grisolia, Thomas S. Deisboeck


This paper develops a non-equilibrium thermodynamics approach to oncogenesis, with a particular focus on ‘symmetry breaking’. The Onsager phenomenological coefficients are introduced to show the biophysical and thermophysical properties of cellular systems with differences between normal and cancerous cells. Seebeck- and Peltier-like effects are introduced to simplify the description of heat exchange and ion fluxes, in an effort to characterize the distinct role of the cellular electric membrane potential. Our result indicate that oncogenesis leads to changes in: (i) the thermophysical properties of the cell cytoplasm, caused by differences in density and heat capacity, (ii) the interactions with the micro-environment, (iii) geometrical characteristics, both in fractal dimensions and in shape symmetry, and (iv) the constitutive properties of membrane fluxes. This presents a unifying biophysics concept for such diverse characteristics, and it may yield new diagnostic and therapeutic opportunities.


Cancer; Symmetry breaking; Non-equilibrium thermodynamics; Onsager's reciprocal relations; Irreversibility.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1478/AAPP.991A1

Copyright (c) 2021 Umberto Lucia, Lucia Grisolia, Thomas S. Deisboeck

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.