The effects of gastrin, proglumide (a gastrin receptor antagonist), and somatostatin on growth of human colon adenocarcinoma cell lines CX1, X56, and HT29 were examined in two experimental models. Nude mice bearing xenografts of colon cancer CX1 or X56 were treated for 14-25 days subcutaneously with saline, pentagastrin (0.5 or 1.0 mg/kg), proglumide (250 or 500 mg/kg), or somatostatin 14 (33, 100, or 300 micrograms/kg) twice daily. Tumor volume, weight, protein, and deoxyribonucleic acid were measured. HT29 cells were grown in vitro and the effects of gastrin 17, proglumide, and somatostatin on growth were evaluated by cell counts or [3H]thymidine incorporation. The larger dose of pentagastrin significantly increased tumor growth in the nude mouse (p less than 0.005) and gastrin induced a biphasic effect on deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis in tissue culture with significant increases of up to 39% (p less than 0.025). Somatostatin alone significantly inhibited tumor growth in two of the cell lines and also inhibited the gastrin-induced growth. Proglumide had no effect by itself but significantly inhibited gastrin-stimulated growth. These findings suggest that growth of some human colon cancers may be hormone-dependent.