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Anticancer Res. 2007 Jul-Aug;27(4B):2465-71.

Mast cells in invasive ductal breast cancer: different behavior in high and minimum hormone-receptive cancers.

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  • 1U.O.C. di Chirurgia Toracica, Universit√† degli Studi di Messina, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria "G. Martino", Messina, Italy.



Studies on the role of mast cells (MC) in cancer have given contrasting results. In order to contribute to the clarification of their role, research on breast cancer was carried out, because some aspects of its carcinogenesis, such as the diversity of the hormonal component, differ greatly.


This study included 50 cases of invasive ductal breast cancer not otherwise specified (NOS): 25 of them were high hormone-receptive (HHR) cancers with estrogen and progesterone receptor values not lower than 50%, 25 were minimum hormone-receptive (MHR) cancers (< 5%). In both groups, mast cells were quantified in the peritumoral area. Twenty cases of surgical interventions for non-neoplastic esthetic prosthesis in healthy women were examined as controls. The proliferation index Ki-67 (MIB1) and the c-erb B2 receptor protein were also considered in cancer patients. Mast cells were detected using Giemsa and Alcian blue stains.


The results obtained showed that there was a highly significant increase in the number of mast cells mainly in the peritumoral area in HHR cancer cases (p < 0.0001) compared to MHR cancers and controls (p < 0.0001). Comparison between mast cells in MHR cancer and control cases was not significant (p = 0.114). Hormone-receptive cancers have a less severe prognosis for their higher responsiveness to therapy. This element may suggest that the higher mast cell number present in these types of cancer is a favorable prognostic factor. Moreover, mast cells tend to accumulate around the cancer area and this can be seen as an attempt to oppose the progression of the anomalous tissue. Mast cells were reported to exhibit cytolytic activity against tumor cells.

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