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Hepatology. 2005 Jan;41(1):5-15.

Cholangiocarcinoma: molecular targeting strategies for chemoprevention and therapy.

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  • 1Division of Cellular and Molecular Pathogenesis, Department of Pathology, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Richmond, VA 23298-0297, USA.


Cholangiocarcinomas are devastating cancers that are increasing in both their worldwide incidence and mortality rates. The challenges posed by these often lethal biliary tract cancers are daunting, with conventional treatment options being limited and the only hope for long-term survival being that of complete surgical resection of the tumor. Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients with cholangiocarcinoma typically seek treatment with advanced disease, and often these patients are deemed poor candidates for curative surgery. Moreover, conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy have not been shown to be effective in prolonging long-term survival, and although photodynamic therapy combined with stenting has been reported to be effective as a palliative treatment, it is not curative. Thus, there is a real need to develop novel chemopreventive and adjuvant therapeutic strategies for cholangiocarcinoma based on exploiting select molecular targets that would impact in a significant way on clinical outcome. This review focuses on potential preventive targets in cholangiocarcinogenesis, such as inducible nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2, and altered bile acid signaling pathways. In addition, molecular alterations related to dysregulation of cholangiocarcinoma cell growth and survival, aberrant gene expression, invasion and metastasis, and tumor microenvironment are described in the context of various clinical and pathological presentations. Moreover, an emphasis is placed on the importance of critical signaling pathways and postulated interactions, including those of ErbB-2, hepatocyte growth factor/Met, interleukin-6/glycoprotein130, cyclooxygenase-2, vascular endothelial growth factor, transforming growth factor-beta, MUC1 and MUC4, beta-catenin, telomerase, and Fas pathways as potential molecular therapeutic targets in cholangiocarcinoma.

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