Background: The SLUG transcription factor has been linked with the KIT signalling pathway that is important for gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST) tumourigenesis. Its clinical significance in GIST is unknown. Methods: Influence of SLUG expression on cell proliferation and viability were investigated in GIST48 and GIST882 cell lines. The association between tumour SLUG expression in immunohistochemistry and recurrence-free survival (RFS) was studied in two clinical GIST series, one with 187 patients treated with surgery alone, and another one with 313 patients treated with surgery and adjuvant imatinib. Results: SLUG downregulation inhibited cell proliferation, induced cell death in both cell lines, and sensitised GIST882 cells to lower imatinib concentrations. SLUG was expressed in 125 (25.0%) of the 500 clinical GISTs evaluated, and expression was associated with several factors linked with unfavourable prognosis. SLUG expression was associated with unfavourable RFS both when patients were treated with surgery alone (HR=3.40, 95% CI=1.67-6.89, P=0.001) and when treated with surgery plus adjuvant imatinib (HR=1.83, 95% CI=1.29-2.60, P=0.001). Conclusions: GIST patients with high tumour SLUG expression have unfavourable RFS. SLUG may mediate pro-survival signalling in GISTs.