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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2009 Mar;69(3):259-70. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2008.09.008. Epub 2008 Nov 1.


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Ospedali Riuniti, Largo Barozzi 1, 24128 Bergamo, Italy.


Cholangiocarcinoma is an uncommon adenocarcinoma with poor prognosis. Although the 1-year survival has increased over time, the 5-year survival has not shown any significant change (less than 5%). Cure can only be expected from surgical resection of early stage tumours but most patients initially present with advanced disease. Cancer cachexia, liver failure, and recurrent sepsis due to biliary obstruction are among the main causes of mortality. Patients' prognosis is strongly related to radical surgery and complete resection is the most effective therapy; the location within the biliary tree (proximal versus distal) has no impact on survival when a complete resection is achieved despite the fact the rate of resectability is up to 70% in case of distal cancer and 15-20% for high bile ducts tumours. Prognosis of cholangiocarcinoma remains poor even with aggressive surgical therapy because of the high incidence of local or regional recurrence and distant metastasis. Based on these data many questions need an answer: is there a role for adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy? Neoadjuvant treatments provide best results? There is a standard therapy in unresectable or metastatic cholangiocarcinoma? This report tries to answer to frequently asked questions that the readers are faced with their patients every day (from diagnostic procedures to palliative treatment) and tries to suggest useful information for their professional practice.

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