Ann Hepatobiliary Pancreat Surg.  2021 Aug;25(3):349-357. 10.14701/ahbps.2021.25.3.349.

Conversion surgery for initially unresectable extrahepatic biliary tract cancer

  • 1Division of Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea


Surgical resection is the only curative treatment for biliary tract cancers; however, most patients undergo palliative chemotherapy because they are contraindicated for surgery. Conversion surgery, a treatment strategy for downsizing chemotherapy and subsequent surgical resection, is feasible for initially unresectable biliary tract cancers following the introduction of effective chemotherapeutic agents.
Patients initially diagnosed with unresectable biliary tract cancers, and treated with conversion surgery after palliative chemotherapy between 2013 and 2019, were reviewed retrospectively.
Twelve patients underwent conversion surgery after palliative chemotherapy for initially unresectable biliary tract cancers. The final pathological diagnosis included six perihilar cholangiocarcinomas, four distal common bile duct cancers, and two gallbladder cancers. Different chemotherapy regimens were used, but all the patients were treated with gemcitabine at some point during their treatment. The median overall survival was 28 months, which was longer than that of patients treated with isolated palliative chemotherapy in previous studies.
Conversion surgery represents a therapeutic alternative for specific cases of unresectable biliary tract cancers. Palliative chemotherapy for initially unresectable biliary tract cancers is recommended for downsizing the tumor and expanding the indications for surgery. Further studies and clinical trials are required to develop new and effective chemotherapeutic regimens.


Biliary tract neoplasms; Operative surgical procedures; Chemoradiotherapy
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