KIT-negative gastrointestinal stromal tumors: proof of concept and therapeutic implications

Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 Jul;28(7):889-94. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200407000-00007.


The diagnosis of gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is currently based on morphologic features and immunohistochemical demonstration of KIT (CD117). However, some tumors (in our estimation approximately 4%) have clinicopathologic features of GIST but do not express KIT. To determine if these lesions are truly GISTs, we evaluated 25 tumors with clinical and histologic features typical of GIST, but with negative KIT immunohistochemistry, for KIT and PDGFRA mutations using DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded tissue. Most tumors originated in the stomach (N = 14) or omentum/mesentery (N = 5). The neoplasms were composed of epithelioid cells (13 cases), admixed epithelioid and spindle cells (8 cases), or spindle cells (4 cases). Absence of KIT expression was confirmed by immunoblotting in 5 cases. Tumor karyotypes performed in 4 cases were noncomplex with monosomy 14 or 14q deletion, typical of GIST. Mutational analysis revealed PDGFRA and KIT mutations in 18 and 4 tumors, respectively, whereas 3 tumors did not have apparent KIT or PDGFRA mutations. The PDGFRA mutations primarily involved exon 18 (N = 15) and included 11 tumors with missense mutation in codon 842 (PDGFRA D842V or D842Y). In conclusion, a small subset of GISTs with otherwise typical clinicopathologic and cytogenetic features do not express detectable KIT protein. When compared with KIT-positive GISTs, these KIT-negative GISTs are more likely to have epithelioid cell morphology, contain PDGFRA oncogenic mutations, and arise in the omentum/peritoneal surface. Notably, some KIT-negative GISTs contain imatinib-sensitive KIT or PDGFRA mutations; therefore, patients with KIT-negative GISTs should not, a priori, be denied imatinib therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzamides
  • Chromosomes, Human, 13-15 / genetics
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Exons
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Karyotyping
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monosomy
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Oncogene Proteins / analysis*
  • Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / analysis
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / genetics
  • Stromal Cells / pathology


  • Benzamides
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha