Peritoneal carcinomatosis is a metastatic disease caused by tumour cells that disseminate into the abdominal cavity and adhere to human peritoneal mesothelial cells (HMCs), covering the intra-abdominal cavity. Therapeutic strategies for this disease aim to induce tumour cell death and subsequent removal of these dying tumour cells can occur through the action of either professional or semi-professional phagocytes. Here, Alfred Königsrainer and co-workers (page 1644) describe a new ‘amateur’ phagocyte – the HMC – that engulfs dying ovarian and colorectal cancer cells, as well as other types of apoptotic cell. By using a combination of flow cytometry and microscopical analyses the authors show that HMCs ingest fragments of dying cells in a manner that depends on an active actin cytoskeleton; these fragments are then trafficked to late phagolysosomes. Furthermore, the authors demonstrate that HMC removal of apoptotic tumour cells can occur through a serum-dependent or -independent mechanism. Finally, multiple engulfment receptor systems, which often function through bridging proteins that act as opsonins (molecules that enhance phagocytosis), were found to be expressed in HMCs and, hence, are likely to be candidates to mediate the phagocytic clearance of these dying tumour cells. The authors believe that future work will elucidate more details on how HMCs contribute to dissemination of tumour cells and the anti-tumour immune response.