Answers From an Expert: Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer

illustration of body with gallbladder highlighted

New Brunswick, N.J., February 7, 2022 Although rare, gallbladder and bile duct cancers affect thousands of people and their families around the world each year. Miral Sadaria Grandhi, MD, surgical oncologist in the Liver Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, shares more.

How do the gallbladder and bile duct relate to one another?

The gallbladder is a small organ that is connected to the liver by the bile ducts. The function of this organ is to store bile, a substance produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of dietary fats. When cancer develops in the gallbladder, it usually begins within the innermost layers and then gradually spreads to the surrounding tissues.

Bile ducts are a series of thin tubes (ducts) that transfer bile fluid from the liver to the small intestine. Bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma, is caused by the abnormal growth of cells in the bile duct that can occur in any portion of the biliary ductal system.

Why is important for the public to know about these cancers?

These types of cancers tend to be aggressive. Therefore, detecting these malignancies early improve outcomes.  It is also important for people to be able to recognize symptoms, which include yellowing of the skin and/or eyes, clay-colored stools, itching, fever, loss of appetite and/or weight, and pain in the upper right abdomen that may radiate to the back.

What type of treatments are available at an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for patients with these types of cancers?

At Rutgers Cancer Institute together with RWJBarnabas Health, patients have access to clinical trials that may improve quantity and quality of life. We continue to offer most patients with these diseases systemic therapy after surgery based on recent clinical trials.  Additionally, treatment options such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy may be offered to patients through our program.

Learn more about the Liver Cancer and Bile Duct Cancer Program, the state's only multidisciplinary healthcare group focused on liver and bile duct tumors: