Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: new insights in pathology

Semin Liver Dis. 2011 Feb;31(1):49-60. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1272839. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


Cholangiocarcinomas are malignant tumors that derive from cholangiocytes of small intrahepatic bile ducts or bile ductules (intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma; ICC), or of large hilar or extrahepatic bile ducts (extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma; ECC). ICC and ECC differ in morphology, pathogenesis, risk factors, treatment, and prognosis. This review focuses on ICC, which is rising in incidence with the emergence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection as a risk factor. The authors examined 73 ICC, which were resected at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and reviewed the literature. The tumors were categorized into classical and nonclassical ICCs based on histopathology. Classical ICCs (54.8%) were characterized by a tubular, glandular, or nested pattern of growth, were significantly associated with tumor size of more than 5 cm and the absence of underlying liver disease and/or advanced fibrosis. Nonclassical ICCs (45.2%) consisted of tumors with trabecular architecture, tumors that exhibited features of extrahepatic carcinomas, and carcinomas considered to be derived from hepatic progenitor cells, i.e., combined hepatocellular/cholangiocarcinomas and cholangiolocellular carcinomas (ductular type of ICC). They were smaller and often arose in chronic liver disease, mostly HCV infection, and/or with significant fibrosis. The role of immunohistochemistry in the diagnosis of ICC and the importance of the new American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging System for ICC are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Aged
  • Bile Duct Diseases / pathology
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / classification
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / virology
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / classification
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / virology
  • Female
  • Hamartoma / pathology
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Incidence
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mixed Tumor, Malignant
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Risk Factors