Purpose of review
Cholangiocarcinoma is the second most common primary liver tumour, worldwide. Its incidence and mortality are rising, the cause of which is unclear. Cholangiocarcinoma usually presents late, with obstructive jaundice, malaise, weight loss and discomfort. For most patients, complete surgical resection, the only potential cure, is not possible. Survival length and palliation of symptoms become paramount and often this centres on restoration of bile flow to relieve jaundice and improve general well being. There are now multiple options to achieve this goal and emerging evidence supports certain methods over others.
For advanced cholangiocarcinoma, endoscopic biliary stenting has become an established treatment. Recent evidence supports the use of metal stents over plastic to improve survival and stent patency. Locoregional therapies, such as radiofrequency ablation, transarterial chemoembolisation and radiotherapy have shown promise in preliminary studies. Landmark studies have established the use of cisplatin and gemcitabine as first-line chemotherapy in advanced cholangiocarcinoma.
The rise in incidence of advanced cholangiocarcinoma, has necessitated the development of novel therapies to optimize palliation. This article discusses the current options for palliation of cholangiocarcinoma, including stenting, locoregional therapy, surgery, endoscopic ultrasound and palliative chemotherapy.