Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most common soft tissue tumors of the intestinal tract. Only 5% of these tumors respond to traditional chemotherapy and even with complete surgical removal of the tumor, recurrence rates have been high. The development of Imatinib mesylate has revolutionized the treatment of GIST by blocking certain proteins that allow the tumor to grow unchecked. However, imatinib rarely eradicates all tumor cells. Many patients develop resistance to imatinib and the tumors eventually begin to grow again.

Considerable research is being done to develop additional therapies that can work together with imatinib to prevent resistance and achieve cure. Immune therapies, which fight tumors by boosting the immune system, have been successful in treating other cancers like melanoma. Our laboratory believes that such immune therapies can be applied to GIST. We are currently investigating different ways to use immune therapies with imatinib to cure GIST in different mouse models. Additionally, our center is one of the world leaders in treating patients with GISTs. This gives us the opportunity to identify ways to augment the immune system in humans, by studying tumor specimens and blood samples donated by patients whom we are treating.

We are extremely grateful to the GCRF as their support has been vital to our research. Continued support will help us pursue our studies and develop novel immune therapies to achieve better patient outcomes.