Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are mesenchymal neoplasms that most commonly affect the stomach or small intestine, but that can occur anywhere within the gastrointestinal tract. The annual incidence of GISTs is estimated to be 10 to 20 cases per million. Traditionally, the only effective treatment was surgical resection, and recurrences were common even with complete removal of tumor. Systemic therapy with standard cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents was completely ineffective. A series of exciting laboratory developments led to the discovery that the small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI571 (imatinib mesylate) has significant clinical activity in GISTs, representing one of the first therapeutic uses of a targeted agent directed against a solid tumor. In this article we will describe the key steps that led to the initial clinical trials of imatinib in GISTs, and we will also discuss the process of incorporating this novel therapy into mainstream oncologic practice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research