Chronic therapy in gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs): the big gap between theory and practice
Saponara M, Pantaleo MA, Nannini M, Biasco G.
The advent of imatinib mesilate, an oral target therapy, has dramatically changed the natural history of gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs). This rare neoplasm has become the paradigm of targeted therapies in solid tumours, also introducing a home-based cure concept in oncology. However, it should be retained that oral drug administration entails new and relevant management problems. Multiple studies have demonstrated the efficacy of imatinib in GISTs associated with a good toxicity profile. However, the efficacy of imatinib, according to its mechanism of action and pharmacokinetics, is closely related to daily assumption. No interruption or "jerky" assumption is permitted in order to avoid efficacy loss. Thus, the issue of treatment adherence is crucial for a successful strategy and should not be overlooked. We think that dealing with the problem means assessing a wide spectrum of not only clinical and general but also psychological and individual aspects. Furthermore, both patient and family should play an active role in the "cure process" and physicians should reduce the distance separating them from their patients due to home-based target therapy, promoting communication and consolidation of a trust-based physician-patient relationship. Several advantages have been introduced by oral target therapies in oncology. However, chronic drug administration, even if generally well tolerated, when prolonged for an undetermined time could heavily impact on patients' quality of life. This could induce non-prescribed drug suspension, with negative impact on disease control. More studies would be necessary in order to detect real patients' adherence, to correlate drug assumption with clinical outcome and to optimize imatinib treatment strategy.