Nitric oxide as a target of complementary and alternative medicines to prevent and treat inflammation and cancer

Cancer Lett. 2008 Sep 8;268(1):10-30. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2008.03.024. Epub 2008 Apr 25.


Nitric oxide (NO) and associated reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are involved in many physiological functions. There has been an ongoing debate to whether RNS can inhibit or perpetuate chronic inflammation and associated carcinogenesis. Although the final outcome depends on the genetic make-up of its target, the surrounding microenvironment, the activity and localization of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) isoforms, and overall levels of NO/RNS, evidence is accumulating that in general, RNS drive inflammation and cancers associated with inflammation. To this end, many complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) that work in chemoprevention associated with chronic inflammation, are inhibitors of excessive NO observed in inflammatory conditions. Here, we review recent literature outlining a role of NO/RNS in chronic inflammation and cancer, and point toward NO as one of several targets for the success of CAMs in treating chronic inflammation and cancer associated with this inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • DNA Damage
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Nitric Oxide / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II