Role of H2S Donors in Cancer Biology

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2015;230:243-65. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-18144-8_13.


Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) donors including organosulfur compounds (OSC), inorganic sulfide salts, and synthetic compounds are useful tools in studies to elucidate the effects of H2S in cancer biology. Studies using such donors have shown the ability of H2S to suppress tumor growth both in vitro and in vivo, with some of them suggesting the selectivity of its cytotoxic effects to cancer cells. In addition to promoting cancer cell death, H2S donors were also found to inhibit cancer angiogenesis and metastasis. The underlying mechanisms for the anticancer activities of H2S involve (1) cell signaling pathways, such as MAPK and STAT; (2) cell cycle regulation; (3) microRNAs regulation; and (4) cancer metabolism and pH regulation. Altogether, compiling evidences have demonstrated the great potential of using H2S donors as anticancer agents. Nevertheless, the application and development of H2S for therapy are still facing challenges as identification of molecular targets of H2S awaits further investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / pharmacology*
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hydrogen Sulfide