Current status of and future prospects for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic gastrointestinal stromal tumours

Gastric Cancer. 2023 May;26(3):339-351. doi: 10.1007/s10120-023-01381-6. Epub 2023 Mar 13.


Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) are soft-tissue sarcomas of the gastrointestinal tract. Surgery is the standard treatment for localised disease, but the risk of relapse and progression to more advanced disease is substantial. Following the discovery of the molecular mechanisms underlying GISTs, targeted therapies for advanced GIST were developed, with the first being the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) imatinib. Imatinib is recommended in international guidelines as first-line therapy to reduce the risk of GIST relapse in high-risk patients, and for locally advanced, inoperable and metastatic disease. Unfortunately, imatinib resistance frequently occurs and, therefore, second-line (sunitinib) and third-line (regorafenib) TKIs have been developed. Treatment options are limited for patients with GIST that has progressed despite these therapies. A number of other TKIs for advanced/metastatic GIST have been approved in some countries. Ripretinib is approved as fourth-line treatment of GIST and avapritinib is approved for GIST harbouring specific genetic mutations, while larotrectinib and entrectinib are approved for solid tumours (including GIST) with specific genetic mutations. In Japan, pimitespib, a heat shock protein 90 (HSP90) inhibitor, is now available as a fourth-line therapy for GIST. Clinical studies of pimitespib have indicated that it has good efficacy and tolerability, importantly not displaying the ocular toxicity of previously developed HSP90 inhibitors. Additional approaches for advanced GIST have been investigated, including alternative uses of currently available TKIs (such as combination therapy), novel TKIs, antibody-drug conjugates, and immunotherapies. Given the poor prognosis of advanced GIST, the development of new therapies remains an important goal.

Keywords: Fourth-line treatment; Gastrointestinal stromal tumours; Refractory GIST.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors* / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors