Skip to main content

ACS & ASCO are Stronger Together: Cancer.Net content is now available on


What's New in Gallbladder Cancer Research?

Because gallbladder cancer is rare, it's been hard to study it well. Most experts agree that treatment in a clinical trial should be considered for any stage of gallbladder cancer.

Gallbladder cancer research is being done in many university hospitals, medical centers, and other institutions around the world. Each year, scientists find out more about what causes the disease, how to prevent it, and how to better treat it. The new and promising treatments discussed here tend to only be available in clinical trials.

Early Detection

Because gallbladder cancer is often found after surgery to remove the gallbladder for other problems (like gallstones), doctors are looking for ways to know whether gallbladder problems are cancer before surgery is done. For instance, studies are looking at how to better use imaging tests, like MRI and CT scans, to more accurately identify and diagnose changes in the gallbladder. Identifying proteins that are linked to gallbladder inflammation is another area of research. Early research has suggested that high levels of certain proteins in the blood may help show which people have gallstones and which have cancer. This could even be used as a screening test in the future, but a lot more research is needed.

Radiation therapy

Researchers are looking for better ways to use radiation therapy, as well as how to best use it along with other treatments, like surgery and chemotherapy. Using certain chemo drugs and radiation together has been found to work better than either treatment alone. This is called chemoradiation. The timing of these 2 treatments, as well as learning which drugs work best with radiation to treat gallbladder cancer are of great research interest.


In general, chemo has had limited effect against gallbladder cancer, but new drugs and drug combinations are being tested. Studies are also looking for better ways to combine chemo with other treatments, like surgery and radiation.

There's a lot of research interest in combining chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Targeted therapy

Many drugs that target a specific change (mutation) in cancer cells have been FDA approved and are in use today. These include drugs that target mutations, including NTRK, RET, BRAF, FGFR2, IDH1, RET, KRAS, and HER2. Studies that look at other targetable mutations are ongoing. Another area of active research is looking at how combining targeted therapy with other treatments, such as chemotherapy, can better help kill gallbladder cancer cells. Different drug combinations are being tested for use in treating gallbladder cancer in clinical trials.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Juengpanich S, Li S, Yang T, Xie T, Chen J, Shan Y, Lee J, Lu Z, Chen T, Zhang B, Cao J, Hu J, Yu J, Wang Y, Topatana W, Gu Z, Cai X, Chen M. Pre-activated nanoparticles with persistent luminescence for deep tumor photodynamic therapy in gallbladder cancer. Nat Commun. 2023 Sep 14;14(1):5699. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41389-1. PMID: 37709778; PMCID: PMC10502062.

Kam AE, Masood A, Shroff RT. Current and emerging therapies for advanced biliary tract cancers. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021 Nov;6(11):956-969. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(21)00171-0. PMID: 34626563.

Montalvo-Jave EE, Rahnemai-Azar AA, Papaconstantinou D, Deloiza ME, Tsilimigras DI, Moris D, Mendoza-Barrera GE, Weber SM, Pawlik TM. Molecular pathways and potential biomarkers in gallbladder cancer: A comprehensive review. Surg Oncol. 2019 Dec;31:83-89. doi: 10.1016/j.suronc.2019.09.006. Epub 2019 Sep 13. PMID: 31541911.

Zhou Y, Yuan K, Yang Y, Ji Z, Zhou D, Ouyang J, Wang Z, Wang F, Liu C, Li Q, Zhang Q, Li Q, Shan X, Zhou J. Gallbladder cancer: current and future treatment options. Front Pharmacol. 2023 May 11;14:1183619. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2023.1183619. PMID: 37251319; PMCID: PMC10213899.

Last Revised: May 23, 2024

American Cancer Society Emails

Sign up to stay up-to-date with news, valuable information, and ways to get involved with the American Cancer Society.