US Pharm. 2016;41(12):HS-20

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic provide the first evidence that the Hedgehog signaling pathway is vital to the formation of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), often driven by the KIT oncogene. Results of the study were published online in Oncotarget.

Eventually, GIST become highly resistant to drug therapy. To combat this, clinicians employ progressively aggressive drugs, although with diminishing effectiveness and higher toxicity in patients. More than 95% of patients eventually succumb to drug-resistant GIST.\

“We may have found this cancer’s ‘on’ switch,” said Jason Sicklick, MD, associate professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and surgical oncologist at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. “We are flipping the switch ‘off’ with arsenic, a drug that is already in clinical practice. With this drug, we are able to kill multidrug-resistant cell lines, offering a new approach to treatment.”

GIST are the most common sarcomas in the United States, with an estimated annual incidence of 6.8 cases per 1 million people.