What`s new in bile duct cancer research and treatment?
Bile duct cancer is an uncommon cancer, which in some ways makes it harder to study than more common cancer types. But research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of bile duct cancer is currently being done in many medical centers throughout the world.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Researchers are looking at new ways of increasing the effectiveness of radiation therapy. Some techniques, such as three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and stereotactic radiosurgery, are widely available and allow doctors to better aim radiation to affect only the tumor and to spare nearby normal tissues. Other radiation techniques such as intra-operative radiation therapy (IORT) and proton beam radiation therapy may be helpful but are not widely available. Doctors are also testing different combinations of chemotherapy (chemo) drugs to be given with radiation therapy.
In general, chemo has not been found to be very effective against bile duct cancer, but newer drugs and combinations of drugs are being tested.
So far chemo has not been very helpful in treating bile duct cancer. Newer drugs are being developed that work differently from standard chemo drugs. These drugs target specific parts of cancer cells or their surrounding environments.
One target of several newer drugs is tumor blood vessels. Bile duct tumors need new blood vessels to grow beyond a certain size. The drug sorafenib (Nexavar®), which is already used for some liver cancers, works in part by hindering new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis). It helped slow tumor growth and shrink some tumors in an early study of bile duct cancer. More studies are going on now. Bevacizumab (Avastin®), another drug that targets blood vessel growth, is also being studied against bile duct cancer. An early study that combined this drug with erlotinib (Tarceva®) showed promising results. Erlotinib is a drug that targets EGFR, a protein found in high amounts on some cancer cells that helps them grow. Other drugs that target EGFR include cetuximab (Erbitux®) and panitumumab (Vectibix®). These are now being studied for use in people with bile duct cancer.
A newer drug called vandetanib (Zactima®), which targets both new blood vessels and EGFR, is also being studied.
Last Medical Review: 10/30/2013
Last Revised: 10/30/2013