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GIST stands for gastrointestinal stromal tumours. These fall under the category of soft tissue sarcomas that can develop in any part of the digestive system, especially the stomach and the small intestine. The cancer originates from the nerve cells that line the walls of the digestive system and form a part of the autonomic nervous system.
While smaller GISTs are usually asymptomatic, larger ones can produce a number of symptoms that include:
Though the exact cause of GIST is not known, it has been found to be related to mutations in the expression of the KIT protein. The cells start to grow and multiply uncontrollably and accumulate to form a tumour. These can gradually start spreading to the surrounding structures, including the peritoneum and the liver.
There are very few known factors that can elevate the risks of developing GIST
The various state of the art modalities available for the diagnosis and screening of GIST include:
Surgery – Surgery aims at removing the tumour along with the surrounding healthy tissues. It is usually recommended for large, localized and symptomatic GISTs. If cancer has spread to other areas of the body and cannot be extracted completely, surgery is either delayed or avoided. GIST’s can be extracted using a minimally invasive approach by laparoscopic means.
Targeted drug therapy – As the name suggests, the therapy works on specific weaknesses of the cancerous cells and blocks them. This helps to destroy the cancer cells. These drugs primarily target and attack tyrosine, an enzyme that is responsible for the growth of cancerous cells.