Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

J Clin Oncol. 2018 Jan 10;36(2):136-143. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.74.9705. Epub 2017 Dec 8.


GI stromal tumors (GISTs) are neoplasms with a varying malignancy potential ranging from virtually indolent tumors to rapidly progressing cancers. GISTs occur throughout the intestinal tract, and most harbor an activating mutation in either KIT or platelet-derived growth factor A ( PDGFRA). Diagnosis is made using immunohistochemistry, but molecular testing with mutation analysis is paramount for selection of appropriate therapy. Most small GISTs are cured with surgery. Tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy has led to substantial improvements in survival, both for patients with localized GIST and those with advanced disease. Adjuvant therapy with imatinib benefits patients with a high risk of recurrence, with studies suggesting most benefit with at least 3 years of therapy. Neoadjuvant imatinib therapy should be considered for patients requiring extensive surgery, aiming at shrinking the tumor to allow organ preservation and less extensive surgery. The following three TKIs have been approved for the management of advanced disease: imatinib, sunitinib, and regorafenib; imatinib is usually the best tolerated of the three and the standard first-line treatment. TKIs benefit the majority of patients with advanced GIST but have no or limited efficacy in patients with the PDGFRA D842V mutation or patients with GIST lacking KIT and PDGFRA mutations. Surgery, the mainstay of primary tumor management, also plays a role in the advanced disease setting for selected patients, as do some other approaches such as palliative radiation therapy. Research continues to identify novel therapies, in particular effective agents to treat TKI-refractory disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / surgery
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / metabolism


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha