Molecular targeted therapies: Ready for "prime time" in biliary tract cancer

J Hepatol. 2020 Jul;73(1):170-185. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2020.03.007. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


The prognosis for patients with biliary tract cancers (cholangiocarcinoma and gallbladder cancer) is poor, while the incidence of these cancers is increasing. Most patients are diagnosed with advanced disease when treatment options are limited to palliative approaches, mainly focused on chemotherapy. In recent years, novel treatment targets of relevance to biliary tract cancers, mainly present in patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, have been identified and are rapidly changing the field. These include fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) fusions and isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH)-1 and -2 mutations which are each present in around 10-20% of patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. In addition, inhibition of other pathways/molecules is currently being explored, including human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) family members, the Wnt pathway, neurotropic tyrosine kinase receptor (NTRK) fusions and BRAF mutations. The IDH1 inhibitor ivosidenib has already been tested in a phase III clinical trial in pretreated cholangiocarcinoma and showed benefit in terms of progression-free survival. Multiple FGFR inhibitors have consistently shown high response rates in phase II/III trials, especially for patients harbouring FGFR2 fusions. Herein, we provide an overview of the status of targeted therapies in biliary tract cancers, discussing the current clinical development of IDH and FGFR inhibitors in detail, as well as reviewing current caveats and future steps.

Keywords: Biliary tract cancer; Cholangiocarcinoma; FGFR; Fusion; Gallbladder cancer; IDH; Mutation; Targeted therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Cholangiocarcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Cholangiocarcinoma* / metabolism
  • Cholangiocarcinoma* / pathology
  • Drug Development
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Gallbladder Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents