Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that grows on several types of common trees such as apple, oak, pine, and elm. Mistletoe extract has been used since ancient times to treat many ailments (see Question 1).
Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies in people with cancer. In certain European countries, preparations made from European mistletoe are among the most prescribed drugs for patients with cancer (see Question 1).
Surgery to remove tumors that are 2 centimeters or larger. Laparoscopic surgery may be done if the tumor is 5 cm or smaller. If there are cancer cells remaining at the edges of the area where the tumor was removed, watchful waiting or targeted therapy with imatinib mesylate may follow.
A clinical trial of targeted therapy with imatinib mesylate following surgery, to decrease the chance the tumor will recur (come back).
Unresectable Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
Unresectable GISTs cannot be completely removed by surgery because they are too large or in a place where there would be too much damage to nearby organs if the tumor is removed. Treatment is usually a clinical trial of targeted therapy with imatinib mesylate to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Metastatic and Recurrent Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
Treatment of GISTs that are metastatic (spread to other parts of the body) or recurrent (came back after treatment) may include the following:
Targeted therapy with imatinib mesylate.
Targeted therapy with sunitinib, if the tumor begins to grow during imatinib mesylate therapy or if the side effects are too bad.
Surgery to remove tumors that have been treated with targeted therapy and are shrinking, stable (not changing), or that have slightly increased in size. Targeted therapy may continue after surgery.
Surgery to remove tumors when there are serious complications, such as bleeding, a hole in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, a blocked GI tract, or infection.
A clinical trial of a new treatment.
Refractory Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
Many GISTs treated with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) become refractory (stop responding) to the drug after a while. Treatment is usually a clinical trial with a different TKI or a clinical trial of a new drug.
Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials that may be right for you. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
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