The role of pH dynamics and the Na+/H+ antiporter in the etiopathogenesis and treatment of cancer. Two faces of the same coin - One single nature

Salvador Harguindey, Gorka Orive, José Luis Pedraz, Angelo Paradiso, Stephan J. Reshkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Looked at from the genetic point-of-view cancer represents a daunting and, frankly, confusing multiplicity of diseases (at least 100) that require an equally large variety of therapeutic strategies and substances designed to treat the particular tumor. However, when analyzed phenotypically cancer is a relatively uniform disease of very conserved 'hallmark' behaviors across the entire spectrum of tissue and genetic differences [D. Hanahan, R.A. Weinberg, Hallmarks of cancer, Cell 100 (2000) 57-70]. This suggests that cancers do, indeed, share common biochemical and physiological characteristics that are independent of the varied genetic backgrounds, and that there may be a common mechanism underlying both the neoplastic transformation/progression side and the antineoplastic/therapy side of oncology. The challenge of modern oncology is to integrate all the diverse experimental data to create a physiological/ metabolic/energetic paradigm that can unite our thinking in order to understand how both neoplastic progression and therapies function. This reductionist view gives the hope that, as in chemistry and physics, it will possible to identify common underlying driving forces that define a tumor and will permit, for the first time, the actual calculated manipulation of their state. That is, a rational therapeutic design. In the present review, we present evidence, obtained from a great number of studies, for a fundamental, underlying mechanism involved in the initiation and evolution of the neoplastic process. There is an ever growing body of evidence that all the important neoplastic phenotypes are driven by an alkalization of the transformed cell, a process which seems specific for transformed cells since the same alkalinization has no effect in cells that have not been transformed. Seen in that light, different fields of cancer research, from etiopathogenesis, cancer cell metabolism and neovascularization, to multiple drug resistance (MDR), selective apoptosis, modern cancer chemotherapy and the spontaneous regression of cancer (SRC) all appear to have in common a pivotal characteristic, the aberrant regulation of hydrogen ion dynamics [S. Harguindey, J.L. Pedraz, R. García Cañero, J. Pérez de Diego, E.J. Cragoe Jr., Hydrogen ion-dependent oncogenesis and parallel new avenues to cancer prevention and treatment using a H+-mediated unifying approach: pH-related and pH-unrelated mechanisms, Crit. Rev. Oncog. 6 (1) (1995) 1-33]. Cancer cells have an acid-base disturbance that is completely different than observed in normal tissues and that increases in correspondence with increasing neoplastic state: an interstitial acid microenvironment linked to an intracellular alkalosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2005


  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer etiopathogenesis and treatment
  • Multiple drug resistance
  • Neovascularization
  • pH, Na/H antiporter and cancer
  • Spontaneous regression of cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Biophysics


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