Gallbladder carcinoma (GBC), classified as a biliary tract cancer (BTC) along with intrahepatic and extrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas, is a rare disease in Western countries, but a highly prevalent disease in Chile, other countries in Latin America, India and Japan. It commonly presents at an advanced stage, and has limited therapeutic options. Cisplatin/gemcitabine has emerged as the first-line standard of care for patients with advanced BTCs, but the prognosis remains poor. Development of molecularly targeted therapies in advanced BTC remains challenging.
Comprehension of the molecular events in gallbladder carcinogenesis may provide a novel targeted therapeutic approach, and early stage clinical trials with targeted therapies appear promising, although the relationship between subsets of patients with positive responses to therapy and tumor genetics requires further exploration. Recent developments in targeted therapeutics, directed against several key signalling pathways in BTC, including epidermal growth factor receptor, angiogenesis, and the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway will be discussed, in addition to the potential application of prognostic factors and markers.
The future therapeutic spectrum for BTC and GBC will likely encompass novel combinations of targeted therapies with cytostatics in scientifically and molecularly directed schedules, thus permitting fewer mechanisms of escape for tumor cells.
Department of Medical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Correspondence to Dr Jennifer J. Knox, Division of Medical Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital, 610 University Ave, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2M9, Canada. Tel: +1 416 946 2399; fax: +1 416 946 6546; e-mail: Jennifer.Knox@uhn.ca