Electrochemistry and nitric oxide mass transport in cancer: why ingestion of sodium nitrite could be effective in treating vascularized tumors

Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2010 Sep 14;12(34):9972-5. doi: 10.1039/c004520a. Epub 2010 Jun 11.


Nitric oxide concentrations in tumors do not reach apoptosis inducing levels when their excess NO is rapidly depleted. The out-flux of NO from a tumor to air or blood scales with the contacting area and with the concentration gradient; the gradient scales with the tumor-air or tumor-blood concentration difference and scales inversely with the thickness of the boundary layer, i.e. the fluid's flow rate. Air-contacting skin and lung cancers account for approximately 60% of all cancers in part because out-diffusion of NO from nascent tumors to air increases the likelihood of their survival. Out-diffusion of NO also explains their initially 2-D spreading at the air interface. Blood is an NO sink because its proteins are rapidly S-nitrosated; depletion of NO by the blood explains the dormancy of tumors until their vascularization and their virulence after vascularization. Erythrocytes store NO(2)- and their carbonic anhydrase converts it to NO and NO(3)(-). Thus, NaNO(2), a common additive in cured meats, may reduce NO out-diffusion by raising the blood NO concentration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eating*
  • Electrochemistry
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Sodium Nitrite / pharmacology*
  • Sodium Nitrite / therapeutic use


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sodium Nitrite