Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer) Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Cholangiocarcinoma?

Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer, is a rare, aggressive disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the bile ducts. The bile ducts are tiny tubes that connect the liver and the gallbladder to the small intestine. They carry bile, a fluid that helps break down fat in the intestines. Bile is made in the liver but stored in the gallbladder.

Types of Cholangiocarcinoma

Cancers can develop in any part of the bile duct, and based on their location, are classified into 3 types:

  • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma occurs in the parts of the bile ducts within the liver and is sometimes classified as a type of liver cancer.
  • Hilar cholangiocarcinoma occurs in the bile ducts just outside of the liver. This type is also called perihilar cholangiocarcinoma.
  • Extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma occurs in the portion of the bile duct nearest the small intestine. This type is also called extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

Cholangiocarcinoma Treatment Options

Treatments for cholangiocarcinoma may include:

  • Surgical removal: Removal of the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Beams of intense energy used to kill the cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Drugs that activate and/or suppress your immune system to fight the cancer.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs directed at blocking certain genes or proteins that help cancer grow.
  • Clinical trials: Drugs/therapies in the early stages of human testing.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cholangiocarcinoma?

Bile duct cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage and has spread to other organs and tissues. Signs and symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma may include:

  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Intensely itchy skin
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain on the right side, just below the ribs
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Dark urine

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are studies to test new treatments, such as new drugs or new approaches to surgery. 

Clinical trials do not guarantee a beneficial outcome and/or cure, and they might have serious or unexpected side effects. It is important to note that clinical trials are closely monitored to ensure they’re conducted as safely as possible. They often offer access to treatments that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you. 

Talk to your doctor about what clinical trials might be appropriate for you.

cholangiocarcinoma bile duct cancer
cholangiocarcinoma bile duct cancer Nurse connecting an intravenous drip in hospital room

The Potential of Certepetide for the Treatment of Cholangiocarcinoma

Certepetide is an investigational drug which is currently being studied in the BOLSTER trial for the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma.

The BOLSTER trial

The BOLSTER trial is a Phase 2a study evaluating certepetide when added to standard-of-care (gemcitabine/cisplatin/durvalumab) versus standard-of-care alone in patients with first-line cholangiocarcinoma in the United States. 

What is certepetide?

Certepetide is an investigational drug that is intended to selectively target and enhance the uptake of anti-cancer drugs into solid tumors. Certepetide is currently not approved for marketing and is not available for sale in any region.

Health-related information on this page including text, graphics, images, and other material is for educational purposes only and therefore not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.