Chapter 4 The Controversial Role of Mast Cells in Tumor Growth

Domenico Ribatti, Enrico Crivellato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mast cells (MCs) were first described by Paul Ehrlich (Beiträge zur Theorie und Praxis der Histologischen Färbung, Thesis, Leipzig University, 1878). They have long been implicated in the pathogenesis of allergic reactions and protective responses to parasites. However, their functional role has been found to be complex and multifarious. MCs are also involved in various cell-mediated immune reactions and found in tissues from multiple disease sites, and as a component of the host reaction to bacteria, parasite, and even virus infections. They also participate in angiogenic and tissue repair processes after injury. The importance of a possible functional link between chronic inflammation and cancer has long been recognized. As most tumors contain inflammatory cell infiltrates, which often include plentiful MCs, a possible contribution of these cells to tumor development has emerged. In this review, general biology of mast cells, their development, anatomical distribution, and phenotype as well as their secretory products will first be discussed. The specific involvement of MCs in tumor biology and tumor fate will then be considered, with particular emphasis on their capacity to stimulate tumor growth by promoting angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. Finally, it is suggested that mast cells may serve as a novel therapeutic target for cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-131
Number of pages43
JournalInternational Review of Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Angiogenesis
  • Mast cells
  • Tumor progression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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