Role of chemotherapy in treatments for biliary tract cancer

Furuse, Junji; Kasuga, Akiyoshi; Takasu, Atsuko; Kitamura, Hiroshi; Nagashima, Fumio
July 2012
Journal of Hepato -- Biliary -- Pancreatic Sciences;Jul2012, Vol. 19 Issue 4, p337
Academic Journal
The purpose of chemotherapy in patients with advanced solid cancers, including biliary tract cancer, is generally to improve the survival and quality of life of the patients. Also, adjuvant chemotherapy is expected to increase the curability of surgery in patients scheduled to undergo surgery. Most patients with unresectable biliary tract cancer develop obstructive jaundice, and biliary drainage is needed before any of the aforementioned treatments. Once jaundice is resolved by stenting of the bile duct or bilio-intestinal bypass, cholangitis often develops, leading to rapid deterioration of the patient's general condition. Therefore, the beneficial effect of chemotherapy in such patients remains controversial. A few randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the survival benefit of chemotherapy as compared with supportive care. In one of these trials, improvement of the quality of life was also confirmed. Recently, since the survival benefit of combined gemcitabine plus cisplatin therapy over gemcitabine alone has been demonstrated in randomized controlled clinical trials, this combined regimen has been recognized as a standard therapy for unresectable biliary tract cancer. A second-line regimen is now expected to be established for patients with gemcitabine-refractory biliary tract cancer, although the significance of second-line therapy remains unclear. One of the next issues in relation to chemotherapy for biliary tract cancer is the development of molecular-targeted agents; however, few large clinical trials of such agents have been conducted for biliary tract cancer. Various issues in chemotherapy for biliary tract cancer remain to be investigated, and global cooperation is necessary to conduct large clinical trials.


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