GIST (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor) Causes

GIST (Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor) causes are currently under study. In recent years, researchers have made great strides in advancing the general knowledge base about cancer causes, and specifically how certain DNA changes may lead to changes in the behavior of healthy cells that can cause them to become cancerous. However, as of yet, no precise cause has been conclusively attributed to the development of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).

With regard to general GIST causes, scientists have established that:

  • The cancer cells of most GIST patients have undergone a change in an oncogene called c-kit.
  • The c-kit produces a protein known as KIT, which stimulates the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) that line the gastrointestinal tract to grow and divide. 
  • Normally, the c-kit oncogene is active only when there is a need to produce additional ICCs.
  • In most GIST cases, physicians find that changes in the c-kit gene have caused it to become constantly active. 
  • The resulting production of excess ICCs can form a mass, or GIST, that can potentially become cancerous. 

In certain rare cases, scientists have linked GIST causes to a c-kit oncogene mutation that was passed down from parent to child. However, the majority of DNA changes related to GISTs are not inherited, and instead seem to occur spontaneously for no apparent reason.

While the gene changes that lead to the formation of most GISTs are understood, the underlying cause of these changes remains unclear. For instance, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental causes of GIST. As the medical community continues to learn more about the gene and protein changes that occur within GIST cells, physicians can utilize this information to develop new and better treatments for GISTs. At the leading edge of this type of cancer research is Moffitt Cancer Center. As a National Cancer Institute-designed Comprehensive Cancer Center, we are spearheading highly acclaimed research initiatives that continually translate to improved patient outcomes and help our patients live better-quality lives.

To learn more about GIST causes or to request an appointment with our highly specialized GIST team, contact Moffitt today. No referral is required – call 1-888-MOFFITT or submit a new patient registration form online.