Prof. Lorenza Rimassa E-Mail
Associate Professor of Medical Oncology, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Humanitas University; Deputy Director, Medical Oncology Unit, Humanitas Cancer Center, Humanitas Research Hospital, IRCCS, Milano, Italy
Research Keywords: liver cancer; hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); cholangiocarcinoma (CCA)/biliary tract cancer (BTC); biomarkers; clinical trials
The incidence of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is increasing in the last years, patients are frequently diagnosed with advanced disease, relapse rates are high also in those undergoing surgery, thus prognosis remains poor. Unfortunately, treatment options have been historically limited, and chemotherapy is still the standard of care in both the adjuvant and advanced setting. However, more recently, different subtypes of CCA have been defined based on the anatomical site and genetic and/or epigenetic aberrations. Thanks to the improving knowledge of CCA biology and molecular heterogeneity, especially for intrahepatic CCA, novel therapeutic targets have been identified and molecularly targeted agents have shown evidence of activity with a good safety profile. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 gene fusions and isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and 2 mutations are the most studied targets and novel agents have been demonstrated active in phase 2 and 3 trials in patients with CCA harboring these aberrations. In addition, other pathways are being tested not only in intrahepatic CCA but also in other subtypes of biliary tract cancers. Finally, immunological characterization of the tumor and the microenvironment, albeit with mixed results, is paving the way for the development of potential immunotherapeutic strategies. In summary, the growing knowledge of CCA biology will allow to develop new therapeutic approaches that will deeply change the treatment paradigm for this disease in the near future.
This special issue is focused on precision medicine for patients with CCA, including new targets, emerging therapies, resistance mechanisms, open issues, and future perspectives, with the aim to improve the management and the prognosis of patients with CCA.
Keywords: cholangiocarcinoma; biliary tract cancer; molecular heterogeneity; genetic/epigenetic aberrations; novel targets; immune microenvironment; novel agents
Patients with unresectable biliary tract carcinomas (BTCs) have a poor prognosis with a median overall survival of fewer than 12 months following systemic chemotherapy. In recent years, the identification of distinct molecular alterations with corresponding targeted therapies is modifying this therapeutic algorithm. The aim of this review is to present an overview of targeted therapy for BTCs, describing published available data and potential future challenges in ongoing trials. From clinicaltrials.gov online database all ongoing trials for BTCs (any stage) was examinated in July 2021, and data regarding study design, disease characteristics and type of treatments were registered. Oncogenic-driven therapy (targeted therapy) was investigated in 67 trials. According to research, 15 ongoing trials (22.4%) are investigating fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor (FGFR)-inhibitors in BTCs. Three (18.7%) are open-label randomized multicenter phase 3 trials, 8 (50%) are single-arm phase two trials, and 4 (25%) are phase one studies. Twelve (17.9%) clinical trials dealt with isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1/2 targeting therapy either in combination with cisplatin (Cis) and gemcitabine (Gem) as first-line treatment for BTCs or in monotherapy in patients with IDH1 mutant advanced malignancies, including cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). Nine (13.4%) clinical trials tested human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) 2 targeting therapy. Four (44.4%) studies are phase I trials, two (22.2%) are phase I/II trials, and three (33.3%) phase II trials. Rare molecular alterations in BTCs, such as anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), c-ros oncogene1 receptor tyrosine kinase (ROS1), and v-RAF murine sarcoma viral oncogene homologue B1 (BRAF), are also under investigation in a few trials. Forty-four clinical trials (17.2%) are investigating not oncogenic-driven multitarget therapy like multireceptor tyrosin kinase inhibitors and antiangiogenetic agents. In conclusion, this review shows that BTCs management is experiencing important innovations, especially in biomarker-based patient selection and in the new emerging therapeutic approach. Many ongoing trials could answer questions regarding the role of molecular inhibitors leading to new therapeutic frontiers for molecular subcategories of BTCs.
Biliary tract cancers (BTCs) are aggressive tumors arising from different portions of the biliary tree and classified according to the anatomical location in intrahepatic (i) cholangiocarcinoma (CCA, iCCA), perihilar CCA (pCCA), and distal CCA (dCCA), gallbladder cancer (GBC), and ampulla of Vater cancer (AVC). Due to their silent behavior, BTCs are frequently diagnosed at advanced stages when the prognosis is poor. The available chemotherapeutic options are palliative and unfortunately, most patients will die from their disease between 6 and 18 months from diagnosis. However, over the last decade, amounting interest has been posed on the genomic landscape of BTCs and deep-sequencing studies have identified different potentially actionable driver mutations. Hence, the promising results of the early phase clinical studies with targeted agents against isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) 1 mutation or fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptor (FGFR) 2 aberrations inintrahepatic tumors, and other agents against humanepidermal growth factor receptor (HER) 2 overexpression/mutations, neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) fusions or B-type Raf kinase (BRAF) mutations across different subtypes of BTCs, have paved the way for a “precision medicine” strategy for BTCs. Moreover, despite the modest results when used as monotherapy, beyond microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) tumors, immune checkpoint inhibitors are being evaluated in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy, possibly further expanding the therapeutic landscape of advanced BTCs. This review aims to provide an overview of the approved systemic therapies, the promising results, and the ongoing studies to explore the current and future directions of advanced BTC systemic treatment.
Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a disease with a very poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Although targeted therapies directed towards specific mutations found in CCA are becoming available and are showing great potential, many tumors do not carry actionable mutations and, in those that do, the emergence of drug resistance is a likely consequence of treatment. Therapeutic targeting of enzymes and other proteins that show elevated activity in CCA cells but which are not altered by mutation is a potential strategy for the treatment of target negative and drug-resistant disease. Protein kinase CK2 (CK2) is a ubiquitously expressed kinase that has increased expression and increased activity in a variety of cancer types including CCA. Several potent CK2 inhibitors are in pre-clinical development or under assessment in a variety of clinical trials often in combination with drugs that induce DNA damage. This review outlines the importance of CK2 in CCA and assesses the progress that has been made in the evaluation of CK2 inhibition as a treatment strategy in this disease. Targeting CK2 based on the expression levels or activity of this protein and/or in combination with drugs that induce DNA damage or inhibit cell cycle progression, could be a viable option for tumors that lack actionable mutations, or for tumors that develop resistance to targeted treatments.