Targeting disease persistence in gastrointestinal stromal tumors

Tamas Ordog, Martin Zörnig, Yujiro Hayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) represent 20%–40% of human sarcomas. Although approximately half of GISTs are cured by surgery, prognosis of advanced disease used to be poor due to the high resistance of these tumors to conventional chemo- and radiotherapy. The introduction of molecularly targeted therapy (e.g., with imatinib mesylate) following the discovery of the role of oncogenic mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinases KIT and platelet-derived growth factor a (PDGFRA) significantly increased patient survival. However, GIST cells persist in 95%–97% of imatinib-treated patients who eventually progress and die of the disease because of the emergence of clones with drug-resistant mutations. Because these secondary mutations are highly heterogeneous, even second- and third-line drugs that are effective against certain genotypes have only moderately increased progression-free survival. Consequently, alternative strategies such as targeting molecular mechanisms underlying disease persistence should be considered. We reviewed recently discovered cell-autonomous and microenvironmental mechanisms that could promote the survival of GIST cells in the presence of tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy.We particularly focused onthe potential role of adult precursors for interstitial cells ofCajal (ICCs), the normal counterpart of GISTs. ICC precursors share phenotypic characteristics with cells that emerge in a subset of patients treated with imatinib and in young patients with GIST characterized by loss of succinate dehydrogenase complex proteins and lack of KIT or PDGFRA mutations. Eradication of residual GIST cells and cure of GIST will likely require individualized combinations of several approaches tailored to tumor genotype and phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-707
Number of pages6
JournalStem Cells Translational Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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