Gallbladder cancer: can newer insights improve the outcome?

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Apr;27(4):642-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1746.2011.07048.x.


Gallbladder cancer (GBC) is the leading cause of cancer related mortality in certain geographic areas. Most of the patients with GBC have advanced disease at presentation, precluding curative resection resulting in a dismal prognosis. However, recent advances in the understanding of its epidemiology and pathogenesis coupled with development of newer diagnostic tools and therapeutic options, has resulted in enhanced optimism towards the management of the disease. The leading risk factors are gallstones, advancing age, female gender, anomalous pancreaticobiliary ductal junction, certain ethnic groups and geographic populations. Advances in radiological imaging and the advent of endoscopic ultrasound have facilitated early detection and accurate staging of the tumor. A high index of suspicion in high risk groups is necessary to pick up incidental and early GBC, as surgical resection is curative. In patients with suspected GBC, an open surgical resection that is appropriate for that stage is advocated. Adjuvant combination chemotherapy and molecular targeted therapy are emerging as effective therapeutic options in those with advanced GBC. Endoscopic palliation of biliary and gastric outlet obstruction with metallic stents has improved their quality of life. Prevention remains the hitherto less explored option to reduce GBC related mortality. Prophylactic cholecystectomy in high risk groups is a cost-effective option. A multi-disciplinary systematic global approach to initiate collaborative ventures to understand epidemiology, standardize management strategies, conduct multi-centric trials with newer therapeutic agents and initiate preventive measures, would pave way for the future conquest of the disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adenocarcinoma / epidemiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology
  • Adenocarcinoma / prevention & control
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / etiology
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors