The Role of Platelets in the Tumor Microenvironment

  • Kelly E. Johnson
  • Sandra S. McAllister
  • Joseph E. ItalianoJr.
  • Elisabeth M. Battinelli


Platelets are small, anuclear cells found in the circulation that have an important and well-defined role in hemostasis and wound healing. Known as the “band-aids of the blood,” these cells rapidly activate, aggregate, and release a potent milieu of growth factors, cytokines, and other biological mediators at the site of vascular damage, forming a clot. Compelling evidence has revealed that tumors can co-opt the normal functions of platelets in order to advance tumor progression and metastasis. Indeed, we now know that platelets are a key component of the tumor microenvironment and that they promote cancer progression in a myriad of ways; platelets drive tumor cell invasion and epithelial to mesenchymal transition, they promote angiogenesis, they facilitate intravasation and extravasation of tumor cells, they protect disseminated tumor cells from shear forces and immune surveillance within the circulation, and they function as long-distance cargo carriers that transmit signals between primary tumors, metastases, and the bone marrow. In this chapter, we will examine the current body of evidence on the role of platelets in cancer along with the underlying mechanisms and explore platelet-targeted therapies as a novel and promising approach to cancer treatment.


Platelet Angiogenesis EMT Alpha-granule Tumor cell-induced platelet aggregation VEGF Endostatin P-selectin VTE Thrombocytosis Thrombocytopenia 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly E. Johnson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sandra S. McAllister
    • 1
  • Joseph E. ItalianoJr.
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elisabeth M. Battinelli
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Hematology, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Vascular Biology Program, Department of SurgeryBoston Children’s HospitalBostonUSA

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