Molecular Targets in Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST) Therapy
Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs) are the most common mesenchimal tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. Such tumors usually have activating mutations in either KIT (75 – 80%) or Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor alpha (PDGFRa) (5 – 10%) which lead to ligand-independent signal transduction. Targeting these activated proteins with Imatinib mesylate, a small-molecule kinase inhibitor, has proven useful in the treatment of recurrent or metastatic GISTs. However, more than half of patients develop resistance to Imatinib after about 2 years. Therefore, other targets have been studying in order to implement the therapeutical armamentarium for this disease. Sunitinib malate is an oral multikinase inhibitor that targets several receptor tyrosine kinases and has proved to prolong survival in Imatinib-resistant patients. Other molecules, such as Nilotinib, Sorafenib and Dasatinib were shown to be useful in Imatinib resistant mutant cell lines and the results of their activity in humans are being awaited. Recent evidence suggests that GIST cells acquire the capability to escape from the control of KIT and PDGFRa through the activation of alternative pathways. Therefore, further effort should be invested in the discovery of new signaling pathways, such as AXL, MET, IGF-R, which might be involved in the evolution of the disease. After a description of KIT and PDGFRa as known targets of anti-GIST treatments, we review other mechanisms and mediators that might be potential targets of new therapies, providing a comprehensive revision of the new molecular strategies under investigation.
Keywords: GIST, targeted therapies, Imatinib, Sunitinib, growth factor receptors, intracellular signaling
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