Chemoradiation and brachytherapy in extrahepatic bile duct carcinoma

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2014 Apr;90(1):58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2013.10.007. Epub 2013 Nov 2.


Background: To explore the role of radiotherapy in the extrahepatic bile duct carcinoma, and to understand if and when radiotherapy could be effective for this group of patients.

Methods: A systematic review of recently published literature was completed. Recent studies using radiotherapy with survival data, resection rates and quality of life data have been analyzed.

Results: There are no randomized trials regarding the treatment of extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The bulk of available studies suggest that in some cases radio-chemotherapy can be used as adjuvant therapy. Radiotherapy could also have a role in unresectable cholangiocarcinoma: external radiotherapy or intraluminal brachytherapy--alone or in combination--could improve the outcome in selected patients. Finally, radiotherapy, and in particular intraluminal brachytherapy, could be used as a palliative treatment to improve the quality of life and in controlling symptoms.

Conclusion: The role of radiotherapy in extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma remains undefined due to the lack of randomized trials or otherwise properly controlled studies.

Keywords: Brachytherapy; Intraoperative radiotherapy; Palliative therapy; Radio-chemotherapy; Resectable cholangiocarcinoma; Unresectable cholangiocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Bile Ducts, Extrahepatic*
  • Brachytherapy*
  • Chemoradiotherapy*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome