Mast cells: A new frontier for cancer immunotherapy

Jake N. Lichterman, Sangeetha M. Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Mast cells are unique tissue-resident immune cells of the myeloid lineage that have long been implicated in the pathogenesis of allergic and autoimmune disorders. More recently, mast cells have been recognized as key orchestrators of anti-tumor immunity, modulators of the cancer stroma, and have also been implicated in cancer cell intrinsic properties. As such, mast cells are an underrecognized but very promising target for cancer immunotherapy. In this review, we discuss the role of mast cells in shaping cancer and its microenvironment, the interaction between mast cells and cancer therapies, and strategies to target mast cells to improve cancer outcomes. Specifically, we address (1) decreasing cell numbers through c-KIT inhibition, (2) modulating mast cell activation and phenotype (through mast cell stabilizers, FcεR1 signaling pathway activators/inhibitors, antibodies targeting inhibitory receptors and ligands, toll like receptor agonists), and (3) altering secreted mast cell mediators and their downstream effects. Finally, we discuss the importance of translational research using patient samples to advance the field of mast cell targeting to optimally improve patient outcomes. As we aim to expand the successes of existing cancer immunotherapies, focused clinical and translational studies targeting mast cells in different cancer contexts are now warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1270
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • C-KIT
  • Cancer
  • Cancer immunology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Mast cell
  • Microenvironment
  • TLR
  • Toll-like receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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