Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are rare, orphan tumors of the GI tract. These tumors start in very early forms of special cells found in the wall of the GI tract, called the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). ICCs are cells of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that regulates body processes such as digesting food. ICCs are sometimes called the “pacemakers” of the GI tract because they signal the muscles in the digestive system to contract to move food and liquid through the GI tract.
More than half of GISTs start in the stomach. Most of the others start in the small intestine, but GISTs can start anywhere along the GI tract. A small number of GISTs start outside the GI tract in nearby areas such as the omentum (an apron-like layer of fatty tissue that hangs over the organs in the abdomen) or the peritoneum (the layer of tissue that lines the organs and walls of the abdomen).
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.
This is why, we need your donations so that research can continue to make strides to answer the above questions and find a cure. GIST Cancer is one of the most insidious killers of men, women and children. It comes silently and by the time it is diagnosed it is too late to treat.
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For more detailed information on GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) Cancer, go to the American Cancer Society’s link.