Penn Surgery Chair Ronald P. DeMatteo, MD, FACS talks GIST in New Interview

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Earlier this year, Penn Medicine Department of Surgery welcomed Ronald P. DeMatteo, MD, FACS, as Chair, Department of Surgery

Dr. Ronald DeMatteo at Penn MedicineDr. DeMatteo is a world-renowned surgical expert and researcher for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), which are rare, soft tissue tumors found in in gastrointestinal tract. 

Over the past fifteen years, Dr. DeMatteo’s clinical and laboratory research has been featured in a number of top tier journals, including The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. DeMatteo was the principal investigator on three national trials testing the benefit of imatinib following surgery for Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors, including the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group Z9001 (Alliance) study. 

In his recent ReachMD interview, Dr. DeMatteo summarizes these investigations, and how his research breakthroughs have helped develop the new standard of care for GIST: What to Know About a State-of-the-Art Approach to GIST Treatment from Penn Medicine.

Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)

GIST tumors are rare and are often very small. Patients diagnosed with GIST typically have vague or subtle complaints, and GIST is often found incidentally through endoscopy or laparoscopy for other reasons. “It occasionally can cause gastrointestinal bleeding,” Dr. DeMatteo explains. “And that may bring it to light and lead to further diagnostic tests that then reveal it.” He continues, “Every once in a while, a tumor is found that is quite large and has eventually caused symptoms of weight loss or greater abdominal discomfort.

Penn’s team has had particular focus on preventing recurrence: “We’ve constructed a nomogram that’s available online to indicate or estimate the likelihood of recurrence for any individual patient,” Dr. DeMatteo details. “We published this in the Lancet Oncology several years ago, and we validated it in two independent datasets from other places in the world.”

Fifteen years ago, surgical treatment was common—even for patients with metastatic tumors. Now, combination therapies are common. During his interview Dr. DeMatteo stressed the importance of comprehensive treatment for GIST. “It’s really necessary to be treated at a center that understands all the aspects of GIST, which is still relatively an uncommon disease. This involves having expert pathologists, expert surgeons, expert medical oncologists,” he emphasizes.

We need the ability to look at the molecular composition of the tumor because that guides us into which of the drugs that we should use to treat the patients that have the disease. The interaction among all these specialists is really necessary to provide the optimal care and treatment.

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