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Semin Diagn Pathol. 2006 May;23(2):70-83.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: pathology and prognosis at different sites.

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Department of Soft Tissue Pathology, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306-6000, USA.


Gastrointestinal (GI) stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most common mesenchymal tumors specific to the GI tract, generally defined as KIT (CD117)-positive tumors with a characteristic set of histologic features. These tumors, derived from Cajal cells or their precursors, most commonly occur at the age >50 years in the stomach (60%), jejunum and ileum (30%), duodenum (4-5%), rectum (4%), colon and appendix (1-2%), and esophagus (<1%), and rarely as apparent primary extragastrointestinal tumors in the vicinity of stomach or intestines. Their overall incidence has been estimated as 10 to 20 per million, including incidental minimal tumors. GISTs are rare in children (<1%) and almost exclusively occur in stomach. They are common in patients with neurofibromatosis 1, who have a predisposition to (multiple) small intestinal GISTs. GISTs contain a spectrum from minute indolent tumors to sarcomas at all sites of occurrence. Their gross patterns are diverse, including nodular, cystic, and diverticular tumors. External involvement of pancreas and liver can simulate primary tumor in these organs. In general, gastric tumors have a more favorable prognosis than the intestinal ones with similar parameters. Gastric GISTs < or =10 cm and < or =5 mitoses per 50 HPFs have a low risk for metastasis, whereas those with >5 per 50 HPFs and >5 cm in diameter have a high risk for metastasis. In contrast, all intestinal GISTs >5 cm independent of mitotic rate have at least moderate risk for metastases, and all >5 mitoses per 50 HPFs have a high risk for metastases. Intestinal GISTs < or =5 cm with < or =5 mitoses per 50 HPFs have a low risk for metastases. Gastric GISTs can be divided into histologic subgroups including 4 spindle cell and 4 epithelioid variants. Intestinal GISTs are a histologically more homogeneous group and often contain distinctive extracellular collagen globules, skeinoid fibers. Immunohistochemical demonstration of KIT, CD34, or protein kinase theta positivity helps to properly identify these tumors.

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