Gallbladder carcinoma: Prognostic factors and therapeutic options

World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Nov 21;21(43):12211-7. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i43.12211.


The outcome of gallbladder carcinoma is poor, and the overall 5-year survival rate is less than 5%. In early-stage disease, a 5-year survival rate up to 75% can be achieved if stage-adjusted therapy is performed. There is wide geographic variability in the frequency of gallbladder carcinoma, which can only be explained by an interaction between genetic factors and their alteration. Gallstones and chronic cholecystitis are important risk factors in the formation of gallbladder malignancies. Factors such as chronic bacterial infection, primary sclerosing cholangitis, an anomalous junction of the pancreaticobiliary duct, and several types of gallbladder polyps are associated with a higher risk of gallbladder cancer. There is also an interesting correlation between risk factors and the histological type of cancer. However, despite theoretical risk factors, only a third of gallbladder carcinomas are recognized preoperatively. In most patients, the tumor is diagnosed by the pathologist after a routine cholecystectomy for a benign disease and is termed ''incidental or occult gallbladder carcinoma'' (IGBC). A cholecystectomy is performed frequently due to the minimal invasiveness of the laparoscopic technique. Therefore, the postoperative diagnosis of potentially curable early-stage disease is more frequent. A second radical re-resection to complete a radical cholecystectomy is required for several IGBCs. However, the literature and guidelines used in different countries differ regarding the radicality or T-stage criteria for performing a radical cholecystectomy. The NCCN guidelines and data from the German registry (GR), which records the largest number of incidental gallbladder carcinomas in Europe, indicate that carcinomas infiltrating the muscularis propria or beyond require radical surgery. According to GR data and current literature, a wedge resection with a combined dissection of the lymph nodes of the hepatoduodenal ligament is adequate for T1b and T2 carcinomas. The reason for a radical cholecystectomy after simple CE in a formally R0 situation is either occult invasion or hepatic spread with unknown lymphogenic dissemination. Unfortunately, there are diverse interpretations and practices regarding stage-adjusted therapy for gallbladder carcinoma. The current data suggest that more radical therapy is warranted.

Keywords: Cholecystitis; Gallbladder carcinoma; Gallbladder polyps; Gallstones; Laparoscopic cholecystectomy; Radical cholecystectomy; Stage-adjusted therapy.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / mortality
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / surgery*
  • Cholecystectomy* / adverse effects
  • Cholecystectomy* / mortality
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / mortality
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome