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Treatment Options for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

    A link to a list of current clinical trials is included at the end of this section. For some types or stages of cancer, there may not be any trials listed. Check with your doctor for clinical trials that are not listed here but may be right for you.

    Resectable Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors

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    Resectable gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) can be completely or almost completely removed by surgery. Treatment may include the following:

    • 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.

    Treatment Options in Clinical Trials

    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. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

      WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

      Last Updated: February 25, 2014
      This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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