Plasmonic nanomaterials have tremendous potential to improve the tumor specificity of traditional cancer ablation practices, yet little effort has been directed toward quantitatively understanding their photothermal energy conversion in tumor tissues. In the present work, we develop a predictive model for plasmonic nanomaterial assisted tumor destruction under extracorporeal laser irradiation. Instead of appealing to heuristically based laser intensification models with tunable, tissue absorption and scattering coefficients, we consider fundamental characteristics of optoelectrothermal energy conversion and heat dissipation for plasmonic nanomaterials within living tumor tissues to construct a simulation tool that accurately reproduces our experimental findings, including aspects of delayed time-temperature characteristics. We believe the comprehensive modeling strategy outlined here provides a groundwork for the development of anticipatory therapeutic planning tools with individually tailored treatment plans, resulting in an ultimate benefit to ailing cancer patients. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.