Detecting cholangiocarcinoma in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis - The promise of DNA methylation and molecular biomarkers

JHEP Rep. 2020 Jul 11;2(5):100143. doi: 10.1016/j.jhepr.2020.100143. eCollection 2020 Oct.


Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a highly fatal malignancy of the bile ducts that arises in up to 20% of patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Current detection methods for CCA display suboptimal sensitivity and/or specificity, and there is no evidence-based screening strategy for CCA in patients with PSC. Consequently, CCA is often detected too late for surgical resection, contributing to the high mortality associated with this malignancy. Recently, biomarkers have emerged with potential to complement current detection methods, and/or be used for cancer surveillance in high-risk patient groups, including patients with PSC. Aberrant DNA methylation patterns represent promising biomarkers with great potential for CCA detection. Such aberrations are frequent in CCA, often occur early, and can be detected in liquid biopsies, including blood, bile and urine. This review summarises and highlights the most promising DNA methylation biomarkers identified for CCA detection so far, focusing on patients with PSC. Other promising molecular biomarkers for detection of PSC-associated CCA in liquid biopsies will also be briefly covered.

Keywords: BilIN, biliary intraepithelial neoplasia; Bile; Bile duct cancer; Biomarker; Blood; CA19-9, carbohydrate antigen 19-9; CCA, cholangiocarcinoma; Cholangiocarcinoma; DNA methylation; ERCP, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; Early detection; FISH, fluorescent in situ hybridization; IPNL/B, intraductal papillary neoplasm of the liver/bile ducts; Liquid biopsy; PSC, primary sclerosing cholangitis; Primary sclerosing cholangitis; Urine.

Publication types

  • Review