The Role of Mast Cells in Molding the Tumor Microenvironment

A. Rigoni, M. P. Colombo, C. Pucillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mast cells (MCs) are granulocytic immune cells that reside in tissues exposed to the external environment. MCs are best known for their activity in allergic reactions, but they have been involved in different physiological and pathological conditions. In particular, MC infiltration has been shown in several types of human tumors and in animal cancer models. Nevertheless, the role of MCs in the tumor microenvironment is still debated because they have been associated either to good or poor prognosis depending on tumor type and tissue localization. This dichotomous role relies on MC capacity to secrete a broad spectrum of molecules with modulatory functions, which may condition the final tumor outcome also promoting angiogenesis and tissue remodeling. In this review, we analyze the multifaceted role of mast cell in tumor progression and inhibition considering their ability to interact with: i) immune cells, ii) tumor cells and iii) the extracellular matrix. Eventually, the current MC targeting strategies to treat cancer patients are discussed. Deciphering the actual role of MCs in tumor onset and progression is crucial to identify MC-targeted treatments aimed at killing cancer cells or at making the tumor vulnerable to selected anti-cancer drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-176
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Microenvironment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cancer
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Immune responses
  • Immunosuppression
  • Mast cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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