What is GIST?

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Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) may randomly occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract. Common sites for GISTs are the stomach, small intestine, esophagus, rectum and colon.

Cancer threatens life when it metastasizes or spreads to additional locations beyond the primary tumor site. With GIST, the most common sites for metastasis are the liver and the abdominal membranes. GIST rarely spreads to lymph nodes but it may occasionally affect local abdominal lymph nodes. Unusual sites of metastasis include lung and bone tissue, as well as pelvic sites.

 

Why Does GIST Develop?

Scientists are beginning to unravel some of the processes that go on inside cells that cause them to develop into GISTs. Normally these cells, like other cells in the body, grow and divide in a controlled fashion. But sometimes things can go wrong, allowing these cells to grow out of control and ultimately become cancerous.

Scientists have discovered that cells may grow in an uncontrolled manner as the result of a defect in their DNA. In most GISTs, a specific gene defect causes the cells to make too much of an enzyme known as KIT. KIT is an enzyme (called a "tyrosine kinase") responsible for sending growth and survival signals inside the cell. If the gene to make KIT is ON, the cell stays alive and grows or proliferates. The overactive, uncontrolled mutant KIT gene triggers the runaway growth of GIST cells. Much less often, GIST cells make too much of a different protein, called PDGFRA, which can also cause the cells to grow. This insight into the way GISTs develop has already helped to identify new treatments.

 

How is GIST Diagnosed?

After a careful physical exam, the doctor may do an endoscopy, X-ray tests, CT scan, or MRI. These may be done to gain more information about whether there is an abnormal growth, where the growth is located, and whether it has spread.

Once a GIST has been identified, it is important to determine the best way to treat it. Ideally, surgery should be considered, to be done by an expert surgeon who has experience in GIST management. GISTs grow differently in each person. The size and location of the tumor and the rate at which they grow are important in determining the risk the tumor presents.

 

How is GIST treated?

Surgery:

Until recently, the only treatment for GIST was surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor completely. However, surgery alone for larger GISTs, or for GISTs that have spread, has yielded disappointing results.

 

Targeted Therapy Drugs:
Targeted therapy is the use of medicines that target parts of cancer cells that make them different from normal cells.

 

 

 

The GCRF Commitment

Research For A Cure

As with any form of cancer, research is the cornerstone to finding a cure for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST) Cancer. Cancer centers and institutions across the United States are lacking the funds that are needed to increase the understanding of what makes GIST so rare.  Scientific study has to help advance the diagnosis and treatment of GIST in children and adults. Together, the GIST Cancer Research Fund team is committed to eradicating this devastating cancer through increased awareness and furthering the cause for research that is absolutely essential for GIST’s cure.

Their Mission

Create funding to support research, which is vital to the long-term survival of those coping with GIST
Provide patients and practitioners with more data on Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor Cancer
Provide information about GIST to the international community
Provide support for patients and families coping with GIST
Fund further research that creates methods of early detection for GIST

For more information please visit: http://gistinfo.org/

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