Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are the most recent cancer type to be targeted by imatinib mesylate, the most effective new drug of recent years.
Treatment of GISTs has been hindered in the past by their characteristic resistance to conventional chemotherapy.
In addition, the persistent misclassification of these tumors in clinical studies has made pre-2000 data difficult to interpret.
However, it is now known that most GISTs contain a mutation in the KIT tyrosine kinase, which means they are an ideal target for imatinib.
In a review article, researchers from Europe and the United States discuss the recent advances in understanding of these difficult-to-treat tumors.
They also consider the impact of imatinib on outcome for patients with GISTs.
|Imatinib heralded after extraordinary success in treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.|
Imatinib was heralded the "magic bullet" drug after extraordinary success in treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia, for which it received FDA approval last year.
It has also recently been granted FDA approval for the treatment of GISTs.
Dr Heikki Joensuu's team conclude that imatinib "has provided physicians with a well-tolerated and highly effective therapeutic option for a disease for which no systemic therapy existed previously".