BACKGROUND: In KIT-expressing Ewing sarcoma cell lines, the addition of doxorubicin to imatinib increases apoptosis, compared with imatinib or doxorubicin alone. On the basis of these in vitro data, the authors conducted a phase 1-2 trial of doxorubicin with imatinib in patients with gastrointestinal sarcoma tumors refractory to high-dose imatinib therapy. METHODS: Patients with metastatic gastrointestinal sarcoma tumor resistant to imatinib at 400 mg by mouth (p.o.) twice a day were eligible for this multicenter study, and received imatinib (400 mg p.o. every day [q.d.]) concomitantly with doxorubicin 15-20 mg/m(2)/weekly for 4 cycles (monthly cycles), followed by imatinib (400 mg p.o. q.d.) maintenance in nonprogressive patients. Spiral computed tomography and positron emission tomography with F18-fluorodeoxyglucose were done basally and after 2 months of therapy to evaluate response. An in vitro study assessed the effect of combining imatinib and doxorubicin. RESULTS: Twenty-six patients with progressive gastrointestinal sarcoma tumor were entered in the study. Treatment was well tolerated. Three (14%) of 22 evaluable patients had partial responses per Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors, and 8 (36%) had clinical benefit (partial response or stable disease for >= 6 months). Median progression-free survival (PFS) was 100 days (95% confidence interval [CI), 62-138), and median survival was 390 days (95% CI, 264-516). Interestingly, PFS was 211 days (95% CI, 52-370) in patients with wild type (WT) KIT and 82 days (95% CI, 53-111) in non-WT patients (10 mutant, 6 not assessed). A synergistic effect on cell line proliferation and apoptosis was found with imatinib and doxorubicin combination. CONCLUSIONS: Low-dose chemobiotherapy combination showed promising activity in heavily pretreated gastrointestinal sarcoma tumor patients, especially in those with WT-K/Tgenotype. Cancer 2010;116;3692-701. (C) 2010 American Cancer Society.