Gastrointestinal stromal tumor of the esophagus: current issues of diagnosis, surgery and drug therapy
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) often arise in the stomach and small intestine, while esophageal GISTs are rare. Due to their rarity, clinicopathological data on esophageal GISTs are extremely limited, and this results in a lack of clear recommendations concerning optimal surgical management for esophageal GISTs. It is difficult to distinguish esophageal GIST from leiomyoma, the most frequent esophageal mesenchymal tumor, prior to resection, because the two types of tumors appear similar on computed tomography (CT), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). Fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) under EUS enables definitive diagnosis, but it is often avoided because scarring could make enucleation more difficult and increase the risk of tumor dissemination by capsule destruction. Esophageal segmental and wedge resections are not usually performed due to the anatomical peculiarity of the esophagus, and the surgical options are limited to the highly invasive esophagectomy or the much less invasive surgical tumor enucleation. The decision as to which surgical procedure should be performed for esophageal GISTs is still under debate. Tumor enucleation may be permitted for smaller tumors, and esophagectomy may be recommended for larger GISTs or high-risk tumors with a high mitotic rate. The purpose of neoadjuvant imatinib administration is downsizing of the GIST to reduce the extent of resection and to reduce the risk of intraoperative complications, including tumor rupture. The efficacy of neoadjuvant/adjuvant imatinib therapy for esophageal GISTs is poorly understood, because the reports are limited to case reports or case series with small numbers. More clinicopathological data and clinical trials for esophageal GIST are expected.