Risk of cholangiocarcinoma in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis: diagnosis and surveillance

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Purpose of review

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is associated with an increased risk of hepatobiliary and extrahepatic malignancy. Particularly the risk of cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is greatly increased. To provide potentially curative treatments for affected patients an early diagnosis of CCA is crucial. We here review the current advances with respect to CCA diagnosis and surveillance and discuss a rational approach on how to perform surveillance of CCA in PSC patients.

Recent findings

Given the shortcomings of the current modalities for the surveillance and diagnosis of CCA in PSC, recent studies have focused on novel biomarkers for CCA. These include serum biomarkers (e.g., circulating angiopoeitin-2, cytokeratin-19 fragments, and antiglycoprotein 2 IgA autoantibodies, microRNA) as well as proteomics obtained from urine and/or bile. Novel approaches that may enhance the diagnostic value of brush cytology in future include the optimization of fluorescence in situ hybridization probes and the assessment of genetic aberrations. In addition, studies on advanced techniques (e.g., single-operator cholangioscopy and probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy) have shown promising results with respect to CCA detection.


Despite recent advances in the diagnosis of CCA in PSC, the detection of early-stage CCA remains difficult. A better understanding of CCA pathogenesis and large prospective studies on novel biomarkers and techniques are required to timely diagnose CCA in the future.

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