Heterogeneity, crosstalk, and targeting of cancer-associated fibroblasts in cholangiocarcinoma

Hepatology. 2024 Apr 1;79(4):941-958. doi: 10.1097/HEP.0000000000000206. Epub 2023 Jan 3.


Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) comprises diverse tumors of the biliary tree and is characterized by late diagnosis, short-term survival, and chemoresistance. CCAs are mainly classified according to their anatomical location and include diverse molecular subclasses harboring inter-tumoral and intratumoral heterogeneity. Besides the tumor cell component, CCA is also characterized by a complex and dynamic tumor microenvironment where tumor cells and stromal cells crosstalk in an intricate network of interactions. Cancer-associated fibroblasts, one of the most abundant cell types in the tumor stroma of CCA, are actively involved in cholangiocarcinogenesis by participating in multiple aspects of the disease including extracellular matrix remodeling, immunomodulation, neo-angiogenesis, and metastasis. Despite their overall tumor-promoting role, recent evidence indicates the presence of transcriptional and functional heterogeneous CAF subtypes with tumor-promoting and tumor-restricting properties. To elucidate the complexity and potentials of cancer-associated fibroblasts as therapeutic targets in CCA, this review will discuss the origin of cancer-associated fibroblasts, their heterogeneity, crosstalk, and role during tumorigenesis, providing an overall picture of the present and future perspectives toward cancer-associated fibroblasts targeting CCA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachnodactyly*
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Bile Ducts, Intrahepatic
  • Biliary Tract*
  • Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma* / drug therapy
  • Cholangiocarcinoma* / genetics
  • Contracture*
  • Humans
  • Tumor Microenvironment

Supplementary concepts

  • Congenital contractural arachnodactyly