christos fountzilas

Medical Therapy for Cholangiocarcinoma and Gallbladder Cancer

Medical therapies use drugs to kill cancer cells.

This is called a systemic therapy because the drugs circulate throughout your body (system). Medical treatment for gallbladder or bile duct cancer may be part of your treatment plan if your cancer:

  • Was diagnosed at a more advanced stage and cannot be removed surgically
  • Is borderline operable and chemotherapy may shrink the tumor enough to be operable
  • Is at high risk for recurrence

Chemotherapy for gallbladder and bile duct cancers

Renuka Iyer, MD

"Our team coordinates chemotherapy delivery with two main goals: prolonging the patient’s life while maintaining quality of life. At Roswell Park, all these specialists work together as a team." — Renuka Iyer, MD

Chemotherapy uses powerful anticancer drugs to attack and kill cancer cells. These treatments may slow a cancer tumor’s growth, shrink the tumor, or downsize it to improve the possibility for a complete surgical removal. If your care team recommend chemotherapy before surgery, this is call adjuvant The anticancer agents our oncologists use for gallbladder and bile duct cancers include:

  • Gemcitabine
  • Capecitabine
  • Cisplatin
  • Oxaliplatin
  • 5-Flurouracil

Roswell Park medical oncologists use specific combinations of chemotherapy agents that are often more effective when used together. In addition, some chemotherapy drugs are delivered at the same time as radiation therapy. This treatment type — chemoradiation — can benefit patients with biliary cancers. If you need chemotherapy, the treatment team will choose the drugs, or combination of drugs, best for your individual case.

Immunotherapy for gallbladder and bile duct cancers

Immunotherapy drugs work against the cancer by stimulating the body’s immune system to recognize the cancer as foreign and attack it. An immunotherapy for biliary cancers includes Pembroluzumab (Keytruda®). To determine if this drug will benefit you, your care team will analyze your tumor’s genes to assess microsatellite instability (MSI). Tumors rated high for this are more likely to respond to this immunotherapy.