Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are a relatively rare form of cancer that generally begin as stomach cancer or cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.

Most people who develop GIST have a mutation in a gene called c-kit, but researchers are not certain how the mutation causes the cancer and the cancer does not always manifest in the same way.

Stanford Expertise

Since the emergence of new therapies like Gleevec, Stanford oncologists have helped develop the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for the management of GIST.

A Personalized, Team Approach
Patients with GIST are evaluated and treated by a team of physicians who participate in Stanford's multidisciplinary gastrointestinal-colorectal tumor board. This group of experts includes faculty with expertise in radiology, interventional radiology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology, and gastroenterology.

With all your doctors working together, you can be assured that all possible treatment approaches have been considered and the one that is best for you is put into place.

GIST can come in many forms. It can arise from different kinds of cells (e.g., gland cells, squamous cells) and it can be either benign or malignant.

Your doctor, along with an expert pathologist, will evaluate your symptoms, how far the cancer has spread, and the precise characteristics of the cancer cells to help determine whether your GIST is benign or malignant, and what stage the cancer is.

The first line of treatment for GIST is almost always surgery. With all surgeries, the expertise of the surgeon is an important factor in the success of treatment. Cancer Center surgeons are recognized experts in gastrointestinal surgery.

Radiation and chemotherapy are not typically used to treat GIST, although experimental therapies may be used in advanced cases.

The recent approval of the targeted agent Gleevec to treat GIST has been a major advance in treatment. Cancer Center physicians provided their patients early access to Gleevec through clinical trials and and can provide experience management of Gleevec in patints with GIST.

Clinical Trials
Even with the emergence of Gleevec as an effective treatment for GIST, some patients will progress and require additional treatment. Cancer Center physicians are active in developing and testing new therapies for the treatment of GIST, including:

When appropriate, patients are invited to participate in studies to investigate the newest treatments as well as large-scale clinical trials for more established treatments.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: