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Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)

Portrait of Dr. DeMatteo A cancer diagnosis is never easy. Being diagnosed with a rare cancer like a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) can raise even more questions. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our team includes international experts in GIST treatment. We provide prompt answers and compassionate support.

About GIST Tumors

GIST is a type of sarcoma, cancer that develops in the body’s bones, muscles or other soft tissues. Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are the most common type of sarcoma, but they are still very rare. GIST can develop along any part of the digestive tract, but most commonly occur in the stomach and small intestine.

Why Choose the Abramson Cancer Center for GIST Tumor Care?

Penn Medicine provides world-class cancer expertise. We are committed to delivering the best cancer treatment and making patients’ lives better. We stay in close contact with you during your treatment and ensure you can reach us at any time through our easy-to-navigate patient portal, myPennMedicine.

When you choose us, you can also expect:

  • Uncommon surgical skills: Our team includes highly trained surgeons who are leaders in removing hard-to-treat GIST masses. In some cases, surgeons from different specialties work together to perform complicated procedures for tumors that affect multiple organs or vital tissues. Meet our leading GIST surgical specialist, Ronald DeMatteo, MD, FACS.
  • Personalized therapies: We provide access to the latest GIST treatments, including targeted cancer drugs that use detailed information about a cancer’s DNA to stop cancer growth.
  • Diagnostic expertise: Our specialists have a deep understanding of how GIST cancer cells look and act. They use this experience and advanced testing to precisely diagnose GIST and guide treatment. Learn more about GIST tumor diagnosis.
  • Expertise in hereditary cancers: Genetic factors may increase your chances of developing GIST. Our expert team treats many cancers that have a hereditary origin. Genetic counselors can help you make treatment decisions based on your cancer risk. Learn more about the Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetics Program.
  • Collaborative care: Our specialists take a team approach to GIST treatment. Medical oncologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists and pathologists work together to craft the most effective treatment plan for you.
  • Comprehensive support: Our nurse navigators go above and beyond to help you get the care you need. They help you understand your diagnosis, make appointments, and sometimes just listen or provide comfort. Learn more about navigating GI cancer.

Our Approach to GIST Tumor Treatment: The Penn Medicine Advantage

Not all GIST cancers look and act the same way. Some GIST cancers grow slowly, while others grow rapidly and are likely to spread to the liver or other areas. Specialized tests give us important details about the unique characteristics of each cancer that help us recommend the best treatment plan for you.

GIST tumor treatment may include some combination of:

  • Surgery: Surgery is common for GIST. Our renowned surgeons regularly treat these rare tumors, even when other centers can’t. We deliver safe, effective surgical care for the most complicated cases. Learn more about the advanced techniques we use in the surgical removal of GIST.
  • Targeted therapies: Targeted oral therapies and other cancer-destroying drugs can effectively treat some GIST tumors, such as metastatic tumors that spread beyond the initial cancer site. Your doctor may recommend therapy before or after surgery.
  • Immunotherapy: We lead the country in immunotherapy research that explores ways to harness the body’s disease-fighting abilities to treat GI cancers.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapies use powerful energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Penn has one of the largest radiation therapy departments in the country. We treat GIST tumors using leading advances like proton therapy.
  • Specialized therapies for metastatic disease: When GIST spreads to the liver or peritoneum (the abdominal cavity), your doctor may consider specialized therapies that deliver high doses of medication directly to the tumor.
  • Clinical trials: Our research team has pioneered significant developments in GIST care. Our robust research program means we can often offer additional treatment options through clinical trials. Read about our GI cancer research.
  • Supportive care: We provide a full array of supportive care services to help you overcome any obstacles that a cancer diagnosis or treatment may create. Learn more about GI cancer support services.

Comprehensive GIST Follow-up Care

Some types of GIST are more likely to return after your treatment ends. Our team customizes your follow-up care, including tests and check-ups, to fit your life. You may be able to receive some tests at a location that’s closer to your home or work.

Request an Appointment

Call 215-615-0534 to speak with a knowledgeable nurse navigator who can guide you to the right GIST cancer expert for your needs. You can also request an appointmentonline.