Contemporary perspectives on the use of radiation therapy for locally advanced gallbladder cancer

Vivek Verma, Christopher H. Crane


Locally advanced gallbladder cancer poor prognosis due to a high distant metastatic rate and poor overall disease control. The impact of standard therapeutic options is unfortunately modest. Due to the rarity of the disease, evidence-based management continues to evolve. The goal of this review is to highlight the contemporary landscape of radiation therapy for gallbladder cancer. First, the rationale for radiation therapy is described. This includes the risk of locoregional recurrence following resection based on patterns-of-failure data, along with the high locoregional disease burden being a frequent cause morbidity and mortality in unresected cases. Additionally, improvements in systemic therapy over the next decade could shift contemporary patterns of failure more towards proportionally higher locoregional recurrence rates. Second, clinical data of radiation therapy for gallbladder cancer are discussed. These include consideration of postoperative chemoradiotherapy for margin- and/or node-positive cases. Patients with localized unresectable disease could benefit from ablative radiation therapy, based on promising data in non-gallbladder cancer pancreaticobiliary neoplasms. The use of advanced radiation therapy technologies such as proton beam therapy, as a means to deliver ablative radiation therapy in a potentially safer manner, is also mentioned. Lastly, the emerging concept of neoadjuvant therapy for gallbladder cancer is also described, in efforts to allow more patients to receive curative resection.