Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol:107 issue:32 pages:14333-14338
Although gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) harboring activating KIT or platelet-derived growth factor receptor A (PDGFRA) mutations respond to treatment with targeted KIT/PDGFRA inhibitors such as imatinib mesylate, these treatments are rarely curative. Most often, a sizeable tumor cell subpopulation survives and remains quiescent for years, eventually resulting in acquired resistance and treatment failure. Here, we report that imatinib induces autophagy as a survival pathway in quiescent GIST cells. Inhibiting autophagy, using RNAi-mediated silencing of autophagy regulators (ATGs) or antimalarial lysosomotrophic agents, promotes the death of GIST cells both in vitro and in vivo. Thus, combining imatinib with autophagy inhibition represents a potentially valuable strategy to promote GIST cytotoxicity and to diminish both cellular quiescence and acquired resistance in GIST patients.