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Progress Made Against Tough-to-Treat Biliary Tract Cancers
Date:4/7/2010

Two-drug approach may extend life for those with tumors in bile duct, gall bladder

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Adding a second chemotherapy drug to the treatment regimen of people with biliary tract cancer improves their survival odds considerably, according to new research.

This type of cancer -- which occurs in the bile duct and gall bladder -- is notoriously difficult to treat and often fatal.

"These are uncommon cancers, and the lack of any definitive data to support a regimen has meant that patients have had rather a raw deal, treated with an assortment of regimens and not given the option of clinical trials, as is the case for other, more common cancers," said Dr. John Bridgewater, senior author of a paper appearing in the April 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The treatment verified in the study is already "what many would consider a standard treatment, and we know from informal communications with many colleagues that many across the world, not just in the U.S. or U.K., are already using this as a standard regimen," added Bridgewater, who is a senior lecturer in medical oncology at the Cancer Institute at the University College London.

Medical professionals have not been sure whether biliary tract cancers responded to chemotherapy at all.

"This establishes that chemotherapy works in this disease and that the combination of two drugs, which are standard, is actually superior to the one drug and, more likely than not, superior to doing nothing," said Dr. Tanios Bekaii-Saab, medical director of the gastrointestinal oncology division at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Although still relatively rare, the incidence of this type of cancer is on the rise, perhaps due to increases in gallstone disease and hepatitis C, the study and an accompanying editorial stated. According to information in the report on the study, about 9,00
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