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New drug hope for bile duct cancer

23 February 2015 08:41

Bile duct cancer patients could benefit from a new class of experimental drug

Bile duct cancer patients could benefit from a new class of experimental drug

A new class of experimental drug could be used to treat bile duct cancer.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found that a key pathway - known as Wnt - drives tumour growth in the cancer.

Blocking it could help the 1,000 people affected by this form of the disease every year.

Ongoing medical advances

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Shortage of symptoms

Bile duct cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma, is a rare but aggressive type of cancer.

There are usually no symptoms until it reaches the later stages, meaning it can be very difficult to treat with surgery.

It also does not typically respond to chemotherapy, while fewer than one in 20 patients survive for five years after diagnosis.

That is why this latest research from the University of Edinburgh could be so important.

Better treatments

By identifying the signals that control the growth of bile duct cancer, it is hoped that scientists will be able to design better treatments.

The new drugs successfully prevented the growth of bile duct cancer cells in the laboratory and shrunk tumours in animals with the disease.

Tests are now planned to see whether the drugs will be effective in patients.

Helen Moremont of AMMF, the only registered charity in the UK working to raise funds for research into cholangiocarcinoma, has welcomed the study.

She hopes the latest work will provide a real step forward towards a clinical trial, and some long-awaited possible improvements in treatments.

Symptoms of bile duct cancer begin to appear when the flow of bile from the liver is blocked.

The blockage, which causes bile to move back into the blood and body tissue, usually results in weight loss, abdominal pain, a high temperature, and a loss of appetite.

Jaundice - the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, itchy skin, pale faeces and dark-coloured urine - is also common.