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J Gastroenterol. 2008;43(7):499-508. doi: 10.1007/s00535-008-2200-y. Epub 2008 Jul 23.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: past, present, and future.

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Developmental Research Laboratories, Shionogi & Co. Ltd., 3-1-1 Futaba-cho, Toyonaka 561-0825, Japan.


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most common mesenchymal tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. The name "GIST" was proposed in 1983, but the cell origin of GIST remained unclear until 1998, when my colleagues and I reported immunohistochemical evidence that GIST originated from interstitial cells of Cajal or their precursors. At the same time, we reported gain-of-function mutations of the Kit gene in GISTs. The Kit gene encodes KIT receptor tyrosine kinase, whose structure is similar to that of platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR). Imatinib mesylate was initially developed as an inhibitor of PDGFR. Then, it was found to be a potent inhibitor of BCR-ABL. Imatinib was successfully used for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. When we reported gain-of-function mutations of the Kit gene in GISTs, the inhibitory effect of imatinib on KIT was already known. Imatinib was then successfully applied to the treatment of GISTs. The interrelationship between the type of Kit gain-of-function mutation and the therapeutic effect of imatinib has been well characterized in GISTs. Although various mutations of Kit and Pdgfr-alpha genes have been found in GISTs, most GISTs are luckily imatinibsensitive. After long-term administration of imatinib, however, new imatinib-resistant clones develop a secondary mutation of the Kit or Pdgfr-alpha gene. New drugs and adjuvant regimens against such secondary progression are now being intensively explored.

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