Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST)

Look to UC San Diego Health for expert GIST care.

We are the region's leader in GIST care and one of the few centers on the West Coast that sees a high number of patients with this rare disease each year. Your UC San Diego Health doctors continue to make important findings about GIST to prevent disease and improve patient outcomes.

About GIST

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, also called GIST, are rare tumors found throughout the gastrointestinal tract. They originate from the so-called "pacemaker" cells that signal muscles to contract and move food and liquid along the digestive tract. Most of these tumors occur in the stomach. They can also occur in the small intestine, colon, rectum or esophagus.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors are highly variable. Tumors vary greatly in their growth and invasiveness.

Some GIST are inherited.

Comprehensive Diagnosis

At UC San Diego Health, you are evaluated by a team that includes a surgical oncologist, medical oncologist, pathologist, radiologist, and gastroenterologist with expertise in GIST, as recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) guidelines.

To accurately diagnose your condition, your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation that usually includes imaging and biopsy. Imaging methods may include:

  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
  • Computed tomography (CT) with contrast enhancement
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET)

Personalized Treatments for GIST

Receive a comprehensive care plan based on many factors, including: 

  • Number of tumors
  • Their size and location
  • Involvement of adjacent organs
  • Proximity to critical structures
  • Your symptoms and overall health

In addition, genomic and molecular testing at our Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy may be recommended to refine your care plan.

Advanced Treatments for GIST

Surgery is the most common treatment for GIST. Your UC San Diego Health physician offers the full spectrum of treatment options to treat your cancer, including:

  • Minimally invasive GIST resections, including laparoscopic and laparo-endoscopic resections
  • Organ-sparing resections to remove localized tumors
  • Multi-visceral resections to remove locally advanced tumors
  • Cytoreductive surgery for metastatic GISTs
  • Systemic therapy with oral tyrosine kinase inhibitors. These drugs have become the first-line medical treatment for metastatic, unresectable, or recurrent GISTs.
  • Promising investigational therapies through clinical trial participation
  • Microwave (thermal) ablation

Second Opinion Services

When you have a diagnosis as serious as cancer, you deserve a second opinion on your treatment options.

How to Get a Second Opinion

Clinical Trials

Advancing Cancer Care and Prevention

UC San Diego Health physicians are actively researching ways to improve cancer care. By joining a clinical trial, you may receive a new cancer treatment before it is available to the public. If your cancer has not responded to standard therapies, talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial could be right for you.

Patient & Family Support Services

At UC San Diego Health, your care goes beyond treating disease. It also includes supporting you and your loved ones emotionally throughout your cancer journey. Most of our support services are free.

Browse All Support Services

Medical Disclaimer

Note: These are potential resources you may find helpful. This is not an exhaustive list nor an endorsement of any group. Contact organizations directly for details, and consult your treatment team if you have any questions or concerns about using one. These resources do not take the place of your treatment team. We update this list regularly, but if any resource is no longer available or missing from this list, please let us know at


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