Advances Being Made in Treatment of Cholangiocarcinoma

Advances Being Made in Treatment of Cholangiocarcinoma

Feb 5, 2016 4:35 PM

Ten years ago, Cholangiocarcinoma was a little known, little understood, rare disease, also known as an orphan cancer. This is no longer the case ever since the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation was established in conjunction with the University of Utah and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. On February 3-5, 2016, the third annual Cholangiocarcinoma conference was held at the University of Utah. Experts from around the world gathered to share important research and updates about this disease.

“It is phenomenal to see professionals, from every discipline and in every part of the world, collaborate to better understand this devastating disease and progress in our offered treatment for patients,” Robin D. Kim, M.D.,  Chief, Division of Transplantation and Advanced Hepatobiliary Surgery. This cancer is notoriously difficult to treat because it is aggressive and progresses quickly. Roughly 2,000 to 3,000 people in the United States will develop this rare and often fatal cancer—Cholangiocarcinoma, which is cancer of the bile duct. If you are age 65 and older, you have an increased risk for this disease.

Bile duct cancer has been attributed to multiple risk factors. In particular, several conditions of the liver or bile duct may cause this disease, including:

Inflammatory bowel disease: this includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. People with these diseases have an increased risk of bile duct cancer.

  • Aging: older people are more likely than younger people to developbile duct cancer. Two out of three patients with bile duct cancer are older than age 65.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing cancers of the gallbladder and bile ducts. This could be because obesity increases the risk of gallstones and bile duct stones.
  • Family history: A history of bile duct cancer in the family seems to increase a person's chances of developing this cancer, but the risk is still low because this is a rare disease.
  • Viral hepatitis: Long term infection with either hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus increases the risk of intrahepatic bile duct cancers.

Symptoms of Cholangiocarcinoma include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), intense itchiness of the skin, and white-colored stools.

New procedures have been offered to patients with Cholangiocarcinoma due to the world class expertise of physicians and surgeons at the University of Utah and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. These options include liver transplantation for select patients, surgical resection, molecular profiling, chemotherapy and innovative clinical trials. “Our multidisciplinary team is able to provide innovative care for a broad spectrum of patients and offer hope for those with this challenging disease,” said Kim.

For more information about bile duct cancer, please contact Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Cancer Learning Center by calling 1-888-424-2100. If you wish to refer a patient, please call 801-585-6140.

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