Surgical Debulking of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors: Is It a Reasonable Option After Second-Line Treatment With Sunitinib?

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2008 May;134(5):625-30. doi: 10.1007/s00432-007-0347-1. Epub 2008 Jan 17.


Introduction: After imatinib treatment, the surgical management of patients affected by gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) has been widely reported and often considered by many oncologists in clinical practice. Surgical results are correlated with disease responsiveness to tyrosine kinase inhibitors and with complete extirpation of all tumor sites. By now, no report specifically addressing surgical management after second-line treatment with sunitinib is still available. Most patients have an unresectable disease and do not have any other therapeutical options except for clinical trials.

Materials and methods: We report two clinical cases of patients with metastatic GISTs, who underwent surgery after sunitinib, and discuss the surgical management option in this clinical setting.

Results: Both our patients had a long, durable stable disease on sunitinib, but one developed a chronic mild bleeding that does not call for emergency surgical interventions and the other one developed chronic heart toxicity. They were proposed to undergo surgery despite the unresectable diseases and received an incomplete resection because of residual metastatic lesions. They restarted sunitinib after surgery.

Conclusions: The poor prognosis after sunitinib treatment and the absence of alternative validated options open the debate on the assessment of surgical management of metastatic GISTs in this setting. The role of surgery should be investigated in clinical trials; however, the enrollment may be difficult. In clinical practice and after a multidisciplinary case patient discussion, surgery could represent a reasonable choice for advanced GISTs especially if the risk of surgery-related death is not too high.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzamides
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Digestive System Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Indoles / therapeutic use*
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / surgery
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrroles / therapeutic use*
  • Sunitinib
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzamides
  • Indoles
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Pyrroles
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Sunitinib