Open Access Open Badges Research article

Determining the role of external beam radiotherapy in unresectable intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: a retrospective analysis of 84 patients

Yi-Xing Chen1, Zhao-Chong Zeng1*, Zhao-You Tang2, Jia Fan2, Jian Zhou2, Wei Jiang1, Meng-Su Zeng3 and Yun-Shan Tan4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

2 Liver Cancer Institute, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

3 Department of Radiology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

4 Department of Pathology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:492  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-492

Published: 14 September 2010



Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) is the second most common type of primary liver cancer. Only few studies have focused on palliative radiotherapy used for patients who weren't suitable for resection by surgery. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) for patients with unresectable ICC.


We identified 84 patients with ICC from December 1998 through December 2008 for retrospective analysis. Thirty-five of 84 patients received EBRT therapy five times a week (median dose, 50 Gy; dose range, 30-60 Gy, in fractions of 1.8-2.0 Gy daily; EBRT group); the remaining 49 patients comprised the non-EBRT group. Tumor response, jaundice relief, and survival rates were compared by Kaplan-Meier analysis. Patient records were reviewed and compared using Cox proportional hazard analysis to determine factors that affect survival time in ICC.


After EBRT, complete response (CR) and partial response (PR) of primary tumors were observed in 8.6% and 28.5% of patients, respectively, and CR and PR of lymph node metastases were observed in 20% and 40% of patients. In 19 patients with jaundice, complete and partial relief was observed in 36.8% and 31.6% of patients, respectively. Median survival times were 5.1 months for the non-EBRT group and 9.5 months for the EBRT group (P = 0.003). One-and two-year survival rates for EBRT versus non-EBRT group were 38.5% versus 16.4%, and 9.6% versus 4.9%, respectively. Multivariate analysis revealed that clinical symptoms, larger tumor size, no EBRT, multiple nodules and synchronous lymph node metastases were associated with poorer prognosis.


EBRT as palliative care appears to improve prognosis and relieve the symptom of jaundice in patients with unresectable ICC.