What is GIST?

Gastrointestinal stromal tumor, GIST, is a relatively uncommon type of cancer that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. GIST’s belong to a class of diseases called sarcomas. Experts estimate that 4,500 to 6,000 GIST’s are diagnosed each year in the United States. GIST’s can develop anywhere in the GI tract but occur most often in the stomach (approximately 60%).

There are a few different mutations found in GIST with the primary mutations being KIT and PDGFRA. Approximately 10% of GIST cases do not have the mutation of KIT or PDGFRA and these are called “wild type” GIST.

For a majority of GIST’s that have KIT or PDGFRA mutations, targeted drug therapy has been developed to help treat these cases. Gleevec (imatinib) and Sutent (sunitinib) are the primary drug options.

As for “wild type” GIST, a first line drug therapy is still being studied.

Surgery is still an important first option for the treatment of GIST’s, especially for wild type cases.

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