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J Clin Oncol. 2012 Jun 1;30(16):1934-40. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.40.5381. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

Adjuvant therapy in the treatment of biliary tract cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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  • 1Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



The benefit of adjuvant therapy (AT) for biliary tract cancer (BTC) is unclear, with conflicting results from nonrandomized studies. We report a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the impact of AT on survival.


Studies published between 1960 and November 2010, which evaluated adjuvant chemotherapy (CT), radiotherapy (RT), or both (CRT) compared with curative-intent surgery alone for resected BTC were included. Only tumors of the gallbladder and bile ducts were assessed. Published data were extracted and computed into odds ratios (ORs) for death at 5 years. Subgroup analyses of benefit based on lymph node (LN) or resection margin positivity (R1) were prespecified. Data were weighted by generic inverse variance and pooled using random-effect modeling.


Twenty studies involving 6,712 patients were analyzed. There was a nonsignificant improvement in overall survival with any AT compared with surgery alone (pooled OR, 0.74; P = .06). There was no difference between gallbladder and bile duct tumors (P = .68). The association was significant when the two registry analyses were excluded. Those receiving CT or CRT derived statistically greater benefit than RT alone (OR, 0.39, 0.61, and 0.98, respectively; P = .02). The greatest benefit for AT was in those with LN-positive disease (OR, 0.49; P = .004) and R1 disease (OR, 0.36; P = .002).


This analysis supports AT for BTC. Prospective randomized trials are needed to provide better rationale for this commonly used strategy. On the basis of our data, such trials could involve two active comparators rather than a no-treatment arm among patients with LN-positive or R1 disease.

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