Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) is a disease that was poorly understood historically. In the last decade, it has undergone a major transformation, sparked by the landmark discovery of the central role of activating KIT mutations in its pathogenesis and recognition of KIT protein expression (CD 117) as a reliable diagnostic marker of disease. The introduction and subsequent US Food and Drug administration approval of imatinib mesylate in the treatment of metastatic or unresectable GIST in February 1, 2002 has thrust this hitherto little known disease into the center stage of oncology, and GIST has served as a model for rationally designed drug trials in the field of cancer therapeutics since.
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