Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) can appear anywhere throughout the gastrointestinal tract. They are soft-tissue sarcomas that develop as the result of specific changes in the DNA of specialized nerve cells within the walls of an individual’s digestive system.1 How much do you know about GISTs?
GISTs could not be identified reliably through testing until the late 1990s. Because of challenges associated with accurate diagnosis, some patients with GISTs had their tumors classified as other forms of gastrointestinal cancers, which skewed statistics on how many individuals actually had the disease. The American Cancer Society currently estimates there are 4000 to 6000 new cases of GISTs diagnosed in the United States each year.2 GISTs do not respond to traditional chemotherapy; treatment approaches for patients with this disease may include watchful waiting, surgery, and limited targeted drug therapies.1