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Photodynamic therapy and Klatskin tumour: an overview.

The prognosis of patients with an unresectable bile duct cancer is poor. In 60-70% of patients, cholangiocarcinoma is located in the hepatic duct bifurcation and known as Klatskin tumour. Surgical resection offers the only chance for 5-year survival, but less than 20% are surgical candidates. Patients with unresectable cholangiocarcinoma are treated with biliary drains, but commonly die of liver failure or cholangitis due to biliary obstruction within 6 to 12 months. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy have not been evaluated in randomized, controlled trials. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a new and promising locoregional treatment, the aim of which is to destroy tumour cells selectively. PDT involves the injection of a photosensitizer followed by percutaneous or endoscopic direct illumination of the tumour with light of a specific wavelength. In recent non-randomized studies of small numbers of patients with unresectable cholangiocarcinoma, PDT induced a decrease in serum bilirubin levels, improved quality of life and a slightly better survival. Other non-randomized trials failed to show clinical benefits. Recently, the first prospective, randomized controlled study with PDT in a selected group of non-resectable cholangiocarcinoma patients was stopped prematurely. The improvement in survival in the PDT-randomized patients was so impressive that it was considered to be unethical to continue randomization. However, further studies are awaited in unselected patients with unresectable cholangiocarcinoma before PDT can be considered as the standard adjuvant therapy.

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