Your GIST Treatment Guide
What Happens if the Cancer Spreads? continued...
“Between 10% and 20% of GIST patients have disease that’s spread right from the start,” says Demetri. “That’s frightening, but the good news is that Gleevec is very effective in controlling metastatic GIST. It works in about nine out of 10 patients and keeps the disease under control for an average of about 2 years. But about 17% of our patients with metastatic disease who were in the initial trial that we did of Gleevec to treat GIST are still alive and taking the drug today, 12 years later,” he says.
GIST that has metastasized to the liver is sometimes also treated with a procedure called hepatic artery embolization. “If the tumor is deep in the liver where a surgeon can’t take it out without risking the blood supply to that organ, for example, surgeons might use embolization to decrease blood flow to the tumor,” Demetri says.
“In well over half of cases, GIST is either completely controlled with surgery alone, or with surgery and Gleevec to prevent recurrence,” says Demetri.