KIT ATP-Binding Pocket/Activation Loop Mutations in GI Stromal Tumor: Emerging Mechanisms of Kinase Inhibitor Escape

J Clin Oncol. 2024 Apr 20;42(12):1439-1449. doi: 10.1200/JCO.23.01197. Epub 2024 Feb 26.


Purpose: Imatinib resistance in GI stromal tumors (GISTs) is primarily caused by secondary KIT mutations, and clonal heterogeneity of these secondary mutations represents a major treatment obstacle. KIT inhibitors used after imatinib have clinical activity, albeit with limited benefit. Ripretinib is a potent inhibitor of secondary KIT mutations in the activation loop (AL). However, clinical benefit in fourth line remains limited and the molecular mechanisms of ripretinib resistance are largely unknown.

Patients and methods: Progressing lesions of 25 patients with GISTs refractory to ripretinib were sequenced for KIT resistance mutations. Resistant genotypes were validated and characterized using novel cell line models and in silico modeling.

Results: GISTs progressing on ripretinib were enriched for secondary mutations in the ATP-binding pocket (AP), which frequently occur in cis with preexisting AL mutations, resulting in highly resistant AP/AL genotypes. AP/AL mutations were rarely observed in a cohort of progressing GIST samples from the preripretinib era but represented 50% of secondary KIT mutations in patients with tumors resistant to ripretinib. In GIST cell lines harboring secondary KIT AL mutations, the sole genomic escape mechanisms during ripretinib drug selection were AP/AL mutations. Ripretinib and sunitinib synergize against mixed clones with secondary AP or AL mutants but do not suppress clones with AP/AL genotypes.

Conclusion: Our findings underscore that KIT remains the central oncogenic driver even in late lines of GIST therapy. KIT-inhibitor combinations may suppress resistance because of secondary KIT mutations. However, the emergence of KIT AP/AL mutations after ripretinib treatment calls for new strategies in the development of next-generation KIT inhibitors.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors* / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate / therapeutic use
  • Mutation
  • Naphthyridines*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit* / genetics
  • Urea* / analogs & derivatives


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Naphthyridines
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • ripretinib
  • Urea