Current Treatment Options in Oncology

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 337–349 | Cite as

Current Therapy and Future Directions in Biliary Tract Malignancies

Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers (JD Berlin, Section Editor)

Opinion Statement

Cancers of the biliary tree represent a rare group of diseases with a devastating impact on patients. Gallbladder cancer often is associated with cholelithiasis. Cholangiocarcinoma may arise in the setting of biliary inflammation, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, but most commonly occurs in patients without a particular risk factor. Surgical removal of biliary cancer is essential for cure, but it is associated with a very high rate of recurrence and for many patients is not possible at the time of diagnosis. Although risk factors differ for each anatomic site, systemic treatment is generally similar. Various adjunctive therapies, such as radiation and embolization, have been investigated for biliary tract cancers with modest success and efforts are ongoing to understand how to optimize these tools. Retrospective series and pooled analysis suggest a benefit for adjuvant treatment following resection, but prospective data are limited. Ongoing and planned phase 3 trials should help to clarify the role of adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation. For advanced disease, chemotherapy improves quality of life and survival, and gemcitabine with cisplatin represents the standard of care. However, all patients ultimately progress on this therapy, so clinical trials of new and better agents are essential to expand the existing treatment options for patients.


Biliary tract cancer Cholangiocarcinoma Gallbladder carcinoma Chemotherapy 

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NashvilleUSA

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