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World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Jun 7;18(21):2591-6. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i21.2591.

Adjuvant treatment in biliary tract cancer: to treat or not to treat?


Biliary tract cancer is a rare malignant tumor. There is limited knowledge about biology and natural history of this disease and considerable uncertainty remains regarding its optimal diagnostic and therapeutic management. The role of adjuvant therapy is object of debate and controversy. Although resection is identified as the most effective and the only potentially curative treatment, there is no consensus on the impact of adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy on the high incidence of disease recurrence and on survival. This is mainly due to the rarity of this disease and the consequent difficulty in performing randomized trials. The only two prospectively controlled trials concluded that adjuvant chemotherapy did not improve survival. Most of the retrospective trials, which had limited sample size and included heterogeneous patients population and non-standardized therapies, suggested a marginal benefit of chemoradiotherapy in reducing locoregional recurrence and an uncertain impact on survival. Well-designed multi-institutional randomized trials are necessary to clarify the role of adjuvant therapy. Two ongoing phase III trials may provide relevant information.


Adjuvant therapy; Biliary tract cancer; Chemoradiation; Chemotherapy; Surgery

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