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J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2005 Mar;16(3):353-61.

Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization in unresectable cholangiocarcinoma: initial experience in a single institution.

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Division of Vascular, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 North Wolfe Street, Blalock 545, Baltimore, Maryland 21287, USA.



Unresectable cholangiocarcinoma carries a dismal prognosis, with median survival times ranging from 6 to 12 months from the time of diagnosis. Palliative therapies have been disappointing and have not been shown to significantly prolong survival. Conversely, transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) has been effective in prolonging the lives of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma but has not been used against cholangiocarcinoma. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to assess the safety and efficacy (ie, survival) of TACE in patients with unresectable intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.


Seventeen patients with unresectable cholangiocarcinoma were treated with one or more cycles of TACE between 1995 and 2004 at our institution. Follow-up imaging was performed on all patients 4-6 weeks after each TACE procedure to determine tumor response and need for further treatment. Survival was calculated with use of the Kaplan-Meier survival curve.


The median survival for 17 patients treated with TACE was 23 months. Two patients with previously unresectable disease underwent successful resection after TACE. The procedure was well tolerated by 82% of the patients, who experienced no side effects or mild side effects that quickly resolved with conservative therapy alone. Two patients had minor complications (12%), which were managed successfully, and one had a major complication that resulted in a fatal outcome. This patient had a rapidly declining course from the time of diagnosis and died shortly after TACE.


The results suggest that TACE was effective at prolonging survival of patients with unresectable cholangiocarcinoma. Therefore, for these patients, TACE may be an appropriate palliative therapy.

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