What’s new in gallbladder cancer research and treatment?
Research into the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of gallbladder cancer is currently under way in many medical centers throughout the world.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Researchers are looking at new ways of increasing the effectiveness of radiation therapy. With newer techniques such as 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and proton beam radiation therapy, doctors can better aim radiation to affect only the tumor and to spare nearby normal tissues. Doctors have also found that giving certain chemotherapy drugs just before radiation therapy may make it more effective.
In general, chemotherapy has been found to be of limited use against gallbladder cancer, but newer drugs and combinations of drugs are now being tested.
So far, chemotherapy has not been found to work very well against most gallbladder cancers. Newer drugs are being developed that work in different ways from standard chemotherapy drugs. These drugs target specific parts of cancer cells or their surrounding environments.
One target of several newer drugs is tumor blood vessels. Gallbladder tumors need new blood vessels to grow beyond a certain size. Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is a drug that targets blood vessel growth and is being studied against gallbladder cancer.
Other new drugs have different targets. For example, EGFR is a protein found in high amounts on some cancer cells that helps them grow. Drugs that target EGFR have shown some benefit against several types of cancer. Some of these, such as cetuximab (Erbitux®) and lapatinib (Tykerb®), are now being studied for use in people with gallbladder cancer, usually in combination with chemotherapy or other targeted drugs.
Last Medical Review: 06/12/2013
Last Revised: 02/06/2014