Sodium Bicarbonate and Cancer

Bicarbonate Increases Tumor pH and Inhibits Spontaneous Metastases

  1. Robert J. Gillies3

  1. 1Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; 2Department of Pharmacology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; and 3H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida
  1. Requests for reprints:
    Robert J. Gillies, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, SRB-2, 12302 Magnolia Drive, Tampa, FL 33612. Phone: 813-725-8355; Fax: 813-979-7265; E-mail:


The external pH of solid tumors is acidic as a consequence of increased metabolism of glucose and poor perfusion. Acid pH has been shown to stimulate tumor cell invasion and metastasis in vitro and in cells before tail vein injection in vivo. The present study investigates whether inhibition of this tumor acidity will reduce the incidence of in vivometastases. Here, we show that oral NaHCO3 selectively increased the pH of tumors and reduced the formation of spontaneous metastases in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer. This treatment regimen was shown to significantly increase the extracellular pH, but not the intracellular pH, of tumors by 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy and the export of acid from growing tumors by fluorescence microscopy of tumors grown in window chambers. NaHCO3 therapy also reduced the rate of lymph node involvement, yet did not affect the levels of circulating tumor cells, suggesting that reduced organ metastases were not due to increased intravasation. In contrast, NaHCO3 therapy significantly reduced the formation of hepatic metastases following intrasplenic injection, suggesting that it did inhibit extravasation and colonization. In tail vein injections of alternative cancer models, bicarbonate had mixed results, inhibiting the formation of metastases from PC3M prostate cancer cells, but not those of B16 melanoma. Although the mechanism of this therapy is not known with certainty, low pH was shown to increase the release of active cathepsin B, an important matrix remodeling protease. [Cancer Res 2009;69(6):2260–8]

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *