Molecular basis for primary and secondary tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance in gastrointestinal stromal tumor Review uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases


  • Small molecule kinase inhibitors have irrevocably altered cancer treatment. March 2010 marks the 10th anniversary of using imatinib in gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), a cardinal example of the utility of such targeted therapy in a solid tumor. Before imatinib, metastatic GIST was frustrating to treat due to its resistance to standard cytotoxic chemotherapy. Median survival for patients with metastatic GIST improved from 19 to 60 months with imatinib. In treating patients with GIST, two patterns of tyrosine kinase inhibitor resistance have been observed. In the first, ~9-14% of patients have progression within 3 months of starting imatinib. These patients are classified as having primary or early resistance. Median progression-free survival (PFS) on imatinib is approximately 24 months; patients with later progression are classified as having secondary or acquired resistance. Primary studies and a meta-analysis of studies of imatinib in GIST patients have identified prognostic features that contribute to treatment failure. One of the strongest predictors for success of therapy is KIT or PDGFRA mutational status. Patients with KIT exon 11 mutant GIST have better response rates, PFS, and overall survival compared to other mutations. A great deal has been learned in the last decade about sensitivity and resistance of GIST to imatinib; however, many unanswered questions remain about secondary resistance mechanisms and clinical management in the third- and fourth-line setting. This review will discuss the role of dose effects, and early and late resistance to imatinib and their clinical implications. Patients intolerant to imatinib (5%) and those who progress on imatinib are treated with sunitinib. The mechanism of resistance to sunitinib is unknown at this time but is also appears related to growth of clones with secondary mutations in KIT. Third- and fourth-line treatments of GIST and with future treatment strategies are also discussed.

publication date

  • January 2011



  • Review



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC3275340

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00280-010-1526-3

PubMed ID

  • 21116624

Additional Document Info

start page

  • S25

end page

  • 43


  • 67


  • SUPPL. 1