Beating Gallbladder Cancer Requires More Than Surgery

Gallbladder cancer prognosis better with adjuvant therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The gallbladder is a part of what's called the biliary tract, which is the system that makes and distributes bile to aid in digestion. Cancer of the biliary tract is also known as cholangiocarcinoma. 

Individuals with gallbladder and bile duct cancer may benefit from having chemotherapy and/or radiation following surgery, according to a large review of studies.

"If you have painful gallstones - seek treatment."

Researchers at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, led by Jennifer Knox, MD, looked at 50 years of studies which analyzed the effects of adjuvant (after primary treatment) therapy in people with biliary tract cancer.

The studies were published between 1960 and 2010. This work examined adjuvant chemotherapy, radiotherapy or both compared to surgery alone. The research focused only on tumors of the bile ducts and gallbladder.

Researchers also analyzed the data based on lymph node involvement and disease still remaining after surgery. The team evaluated 20 studies involving about 6,700 patients.

There wasn't a significant difference in the lifespan of those who only had surgery and those who had any adjuvant therapy. This was seen in both gallbladder and bile duct tumors.

With deeper analysis, research investigators found that individuals who received either chemotherapy or chemotherapy plus radiation after surgery lived longer than those who had only radiation therapy.

Adjuvant therapies were most beneficial in people whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and those whose cancer was not completely removed by the surgery.

The authors concluded that adjuvant therapy helps after biliary tract cancer surgery. They noted that randomized trials are needed to confirm these findings.

This research was published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Funding for the study came in part from the Division of Medical Oncology of the Princess Margaret Hospital/University Health Network at the University of Toronto.

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Review Date: 
August 11, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013