High incidence of microscopic gastrointestinal stromal tumors in the stomach

Hum Pathol. 2006 Dec;37(12):1527-35. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2006.07.002. Epub 2006 Sep 25.


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are rare mesenchymal neoplasms with an annual incidence of approximately 10 to 20 per 1 million cases. Although pathologists have often observed incidental small GISTs in the stomach resected from patients with gastric cancer, no report on the real incidence of gastric GISTs is available. In this study, 100 whole stomachs resected from patients with gastric cancer were sectioned at 5-mm intervals and hematoxylin and eosin-stained slides (a mean of 130 slides for each case) were examined for microscopic GISTs. KIT (CD117), CD34, and desmin expression of the incidental tumors was evaluated by immunohistochemistry, and genomic DNA extracted from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tumor tissues was analyzed for c-kit gene mutations in exon 11. In 35 of the 100 whole stomachs, we found 50 microscopic GISTs, all of which were positive for KIT and/or CD34 and negative for desmin. Most microscopic GISTs (45/50, 90%) were located in the upper stomach. Two of the 25 (8%) microscopic GISTs had c-kit gene mutations. Fifty-one leiomyomas with positive expression for desmin were observed in 28 of the 100 stomachs. Both leiomyomas and GISTs were found in 12 stomachs. These results indicate that microscopic GISTs are common in the upper portion of the stomach. Considering the annual incidence of clinical GISTs, only few microscopic GISTs may grow into a clinical size with malignant potential. Further studies are required to clarify the genetic events responsible for the transformation of microscopic GISTs to clinical GISTs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD34 / analysis
  • Antigens, CD34 / genetics
  • Desmin / analysis
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / epidemiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / pathology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Microscopy
  • Middle Aged
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Desmin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit