This press release was originally posted by UC San Diego News Center on February 18, 2021 by Michelle Brubaker.

Chatter Between Cell Populations Drives Progression of Gastrointestinal Tumors

Study results could lead to more effective treatment options for GIST patients, which are currently limited

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are a subytpe of cancers known as sarcomas. GIST is the most common type of sarcoma with approximately 5,000 to 6,000 new patient cases annually in the United States. GIST cannot be cured by drugs alone, and targeted therapies are only modestly effective, with a high rate of drug resistance. In a recent study, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine identified new therapeutic targets that could lead to new treatment options for patients.

Jason Sicklick, MD

Jason Sicklick, MD

The study, published in the February 18, 2021 online edition of Oncogene, found that specific cell-to-cell communication influences GIST biology and is strongly associated with cancer progression and metastasis.

The researchers discovered that certain GIST cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), a cell population within GIST tumors, can communicate with GIST cells. This crosstalk between CAFs and GIST cells results in more aggressive tumor biology

“By examining the tumor microenvironment of GIST, we were able to look at a previously unrecognized cellular target for GIST therapy that could result in improved disease control and cure rates. It’s a paradigm shift for the field,” said senior author Jason Sicklick, MD, professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and surgical oncologist at UC San Diego Health.

The study involved animal models of GIST metastasis and bioinformatic analyses from 75 GIST patients.

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Read more about Dr. Sicklick in LRG News