In the study, the UTMB scientists describe cell-culture and mouse experiments demonstrating that colon cancer cells produce large amounts of hydrogen sulfide, and depend on the compound for survival and growth.
"Colon cancer cells thrive on this stuff ? our data show that they use it to make energy, to divide, to grow and to invade the host," UTMB professor Csaba Szabo, an author on the paper, said.
The researchers connected the bulk of colon-cancer hydrogen sulfide production to a protein called CBS, which is produced at much higher levels in colon cancer cells than in non-cancerous tissue.
Experiments revealed that colon cancer cell growth was curtailed when the activity of CBS was chemically blocked, while normal cell growth was unaffected.
"Our work identifies CBS as a new anti-cancer target," UTMB professor and paper author Mark Hellmich, said.
"By blocking CBS, we can fight colon cancer," he added.
The study is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.