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Gemcitabine in combination with EGF-Receptor antibody (Cetuximab) as a treatment of cholangiocarcinoma: a case report

Martin F Sprinzl1*, Carl C Schimanski1, Markus Moehler1, Simin Schadmand-Fischer2, Peter R Galle1 and Stephan Kanzler1

Author Affiliations

1 I. Department of Medicine, Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz, Langenbeckstrasse 1, 55101 Mainz, Germany

2 Department of Radiology, Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz, Langenbeckstrasse 1, 55101 Mainz, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:190  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-190

Published: 17 July 2006



Extensive disease of cholangiocarcinoma (CC) determines the overall outcome and limits curative resection. Despite chemotherapy, which has been introduced to improve the outcome of biliary tract malignancies, the benefit in survival is still marginal.

Case presentation

We report a 69-year-old patient with non-resectable CC showing hepatic metastasis and peritoneal carcinomatosis. Diagnosis was based on computed tomography, mini-laparoscopy and bioptic specimens. Histology revealed an adenocarcinoma of the biliary tract with expression of epithelial growth factor receptor. After informed consent the patient received experimental gemcitabine (1000 mg/m2) every other week and cetuximab (250 mg/m2) weekly for palliative chemotherapy. During the reported follow up (since time of first presentation) 20 cycles of chemotherapy were administered. Relevant chemotherapy-related toxicity was limited on gemcitabine-associated side effects. Predominantly, haematological toxicity (CTC, grade 3) and neutropenic fever (CTC, grade 3) promoted by catheter-related sepsis were observed. Cetuximab caused only mild skin toxicity (CTC, grade 1).

Chemotherapy led to a partial response (> 30% reduction, according to RECIST) of the target lesions and disappearance of the peritoneal carcinomatosis as shown by computed tomography. Partial response occurred after 17 weeks of treatment and remained stable during the entire course of chemotherapy for 9.7 months. In parallel, Ca 19-9 serum levels, which were elevated 5-fold at time of diagnosis, returned to normal after 16 weeks of treatment. The performance status stabilized and intravenous alimentation could be discontinued.


Our experience from one patient with CC suggests, that a combination of cytotoxic chemotherapy together with cetuximab may show promising efficacy in respect to survival and quality of life. Therefore cetuximab, as a component of palliative chemotherapy in biliary tract cancer, needs further evaluation in prospective randomized trials.