John Han-Chih Chang, MD and Kenneth Blank, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
A family member was recently diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. Could you provide me with any information regarding this tumor and ongoing clinical trials, conventional or experimental?  
Thank you for your attention.

John Han-Chih Chang, MD and Kenneth Blank, MD, Editorial Assistants for Oncolink, respond:

Thank you for your question.

Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer of the biliary system-which is the "tubing" that transports bile made in the liver to the intestinal tract. Clinically these tumors are divided into two groups

  • Those that occur within the liver (intrahepatic) and
  • Those that occur outside the liver (extrahepatic).
Intrahepatic tumors are treated with resection of the tumor and part of the liver, if possible, followed by chemotherapy and in some cases radiation therapy

Extrahepatic tumors also are divided into two broad groups:

  • those that occur near the pancreas (peri-pancreatic) and
  • those that occur in the biliary system at a distance from the pancreas
Peri-pancreatic cholangiocarcinomas are treated similarly to pancreatic cancer, with surgery that removes the tumor, part of the pancreas and part of the small intestine. This procedure is often called a Whipple resection. As with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, these tumors may require chemotherapy and radiotherapy or both.

Extrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas are also treated with surgery, but often resection of the tumor is not possible and patients are treated primarily with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

For information on ongoing national clinical trials please see OncoLink's Clinical Trials page.