Molecular characterization and pathogenesis of gastrointestinal stromal tumor
Most gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) harbor activating mutations in the receptor tyrosine kinase gene KIT or platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA), and the resultant activation of downstream signals plays a pivotal role in the development of GISTs. The sites of the tyrosine kinase gene mutations are associated with the biological behavior of GISTs, including risk category, clinical outcome and drug response. Mutations in RAS signaling pathway genes, including KRAS and BRAF, have also been reported in KIT/PDGFRA wild-type GISTs, though they are rare. Neurofibromin 1 (NF1) is a tumor suppressor gene mutated in neurofibromatosis type 1. Patients with NF1 mutations are at high risk of developing GISTs. Recent findings suggest that altered expression or mutation of members of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) heterotetramer are causally associated with GIST development through induction of aberrant DNA methylation. At present, GISTs with no alterations in KIT, PDGFRA, RAS signaling genes or SDH family genes are referred to as true wild-type GISTs. KIT and PDGFRA mutations are thought as the earliest events in GIST development, and subsequent accumulation of chromosomal aberrations and other molecular alterations are required for malignant progression. In addition, recent studies have shown that epigenetic alterations and noncoding RNAs also play key roles in the pathogenesis of GISTs.