Mast cells impair the development of protective anti-tumor immunity

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2012 Dec;61(12):2273-82. doi: 10.1007/s00262-012-1276-7. Epub 2012 Jun 10.


Mast cells have emerged as critical intermediaries in the regulation of peripheral tolerance. Their presence in many precancerous lesions and tumors is associated with a poor prognosis, suggesting mast cells may promote an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment and impede the development of protective anti-tumor immunity. The studies presented herein investigate how mast cells influence tumor-specific T cell responses. Male MB49 tumor cells, expressing HY antigens, induce anti-tumor IFN-γ(+) T cell responses in female mice. However, normal female mice cannot control progressive MB49 tumor growth. In contrast, mast cell-deficient c-Kit(Wsh) (W(sh)) female mice controlled tumor growth and exhibited enhanced survival. The role of mast cells in curtailing the development of protective immunity was shown by increased mortality in mast cell-reconstituted W(sh) mice with tumors. Confirmation of enhanced immunity in female W(sh) mice was provided by (1) higher frequency of tumor-specific IFN-γ(+) CD8(+) T cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes compared with WT females and (2) significantly increased ratios of intratumoral CD4(+) and CD8(+) T effector cells relative to tumor cells in W(sh) mice compared to WT. These studies are the first to reveal that mast cells impair both regional adaptive immune responses and responses within the tumor microenvironment to diminish protective anti-tumor immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • H-Y Antigen / immunology
  • Immunity / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / immunology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • H-Y Antigen
  • Interferon-gamma