What is the role of surgery in the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma (CCC)?

Updated: Dec 28, 2019
  • Author: Peter E Darwin, MD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Complete surgical resection is the only therapy to afford a chance of cure. Unfortunately, only 10% of patients present with early-stage disease and are candidates for curative resection. Intrahepatic and Klatskin tumors [7] require liver resection, which may not be an option for older patients with comorbid conditions. In one report, 15% of patients with proximal lesions were candidates for complete resections, with higher rates in patients with mid-ductal tumors (33%) or distal tumors (56%). The survival rate for patients with proximal tumors can be 40% if negative margins are obtained.

Orthotopic liver transplantation is considered for some patients with proximal tumors who are not candidates for resection because of the extent of tumor spread in the liver. The largest series reports a 53% 5-year survival rate and a 38% complete pathologic response rate with preoperative radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Liver transplantation may have a survival benefit over palliative treatments, especially for patients with tumors in the initial stages. One study has demonstrated a 5-year survival rate greater than 80% in select patients. [37]

Distal tumors are resected via Whipple procedure; periampullary region tumors have a uniformly better prognosis, with a long-term survival rate of 30-40%.

Patterns of treatment failure after curative surgery show disappointingly high rates of tumor bed and regional nodal recurrence. This finding may be due in part to the narrow pathologic margins; however, the regional node failure rate is approximately 50%, and the distal metastases rate is 30-40%. Failure rates correlate with TNM stage. Adjuvant transcatheter arterial chemoembolization for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma has been used post attempted curative surgery, with better survival in patients with early recurrence. [38]

Palliative procedures are required if internal stenting cannot be accomplished and/or external stenting is not desirable or cannot be obtained. Surgical bypass, particularly for tumors in the common bile duct, should be performed in such cases.

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