Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) constitute the largest category of nonepithelial neoplasms of the gastrointestinal tract. Histologically, they have a spindle cell appearance but stain by immunohistochemistry for the proto-oncogene, c-kit (CD117). There is some evidence that phosphorylation of these receptors leads to a cascade that may activate the ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, which may, in turn, allow other oncogenes to become active.
Immunohistochemical staining pattern of GISTs will aid in their differentiation from other spindle cell tumors and predict clinical outcome in patients.
Design and Setting
Retrospective review of patient records and paraffin block specimens of spindle cell tumors.
We have identified 65 patients with spindle cell tumors of the gastrointestinal tract at our institution in the past 10 years. Tumors were diagnosed by their morphology as leiomyomas, leiomyoblastomas, or leiomyosarcomas.
Main Outcome Measures
CD117 and ras p21 were stained by immunohistochemistry on formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded sections of normal and tumor tissues.
Of the 65 patients, there were 23 patients diagnosed as having GIST confirmed by CD117 expression and 42 patients without GIST. Gastrointestinal stromal tumor samples of 17 (77%) of 22 patients stained positive for ras protein compared with 0 of 27 patients with leiomyomas (P<.001).
To our knowledge, this study is the first to demonstrate that GISTs stain positive for ras p21. This molecular trait may be a useful diagnostic tool in addition to the c-kit (CD117) to separate GISTs from leiomyomas and leiomyosarcomas. In the future, ras inhibitors may potentially be a therapeutic to treat GISTs.