There has been a great deal of progress in recent years, especially in treating gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). As researchers have come to understand the genetic changes that cause these tumors, they’ve been able to use newer treatments to target these changes.
Doctors know targeted treatments like imatinib (Gleevec) and sunitinib (Sutent) often work, but they still aren’t sure exactly how and when to give them to make them most effective. Should they be given after surgery to all patients, even those with very small tumors? How long should drug treatment be continued? Would sunitinib be as effective as imatinib if it was given first? These questions are now being studied in clinical trials.
Other drugs that target the KIT or PDGFRA proteins are also being studied for use against GISTs. Some of these, such as sorafenib (Nexavar), nilotinib (Tasigna), and dasatinib (Sprycel) have helped some patients in early studies, but it isn’t clear which one, if any, would be the best one to use after the standard targeted drugs stopped working.
Other drugs being studied, like BIIB021, are aimed at different targets involved with cancer, such as heat shock proteins.
People with GISTs that are no longer responding to standard treatments may want to ask their doctor about clinical trials of these newer targeted therapies.
Last Medical Review: 04/04/2014
Last Revised: 02/08/2016