- Primary Biliary Cholangitis, previously known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, is a rare disease, which mainly affects women in their fifth to seventh decades of life. It is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by a progressive damage of interlobular bile ducts leading to ductopenia, chronic cholestasis and bile acids retention. Even if the disease usually presents a long asymptomatic phase and a slow progression, in many patients it may progress faster toward cirrhosis and its complications.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma are primary liver cancers, both represent a growing challenge for clinicians due to their increasing morbidity and mortality. In the last few years a number of in vivo models of hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma have been developed. The study of these models is providing a significant contribution in unveiling the pathophysiology of primary liver malignancies. They are also fundamental tools to evaluate newly designed molecules to be tested as new potential therapeutic agents in a pre-clinical set.
- The incidence of Cholangiocellular carcinoma (CCA) is increasing, due to a sharp increase of the intra-hepatic form. Evidence-ascertained risk factors for CCA are primary sclerosing cholangitis, Opistorchis viverrini infection, Caroli disease, congenital choledocal cist, Vater ampulla adenoma, bile duct adenoma and intra-hepatic lithiasis. Obesity, diabetes, smoking, abnormal biliary-pancreatic junction, bilio-enteric surgery, and viral cirrhosis are emerging risk factors, but their role still needs to be validated.
- Bile duct epithelial cells (i.e., cholangiocytes), which line the intrahepatic biliary epithelium, are the target cells in a number of human cholestatic liver diseases (termed cholangiopathies). Cholangiocyte proliferation and death is present in virtually all human cholangiopathies. A number of recent studies have provided insights into the key mechanisms that regulate the proliferation and function of cholangiocytes during the pathogenesis of cholestatic liver diseases. In our review, we have summarised the most important of these recent studies over the past 3 years with a focus on those performed in the animal model of extrahepatic bile duct ligation.
- Cholangiocarcinoma is commonly considered a rare cancer. However, if we consider the hepato-biliary system a single entity, cancers of the gallbladder, intra-hepatic and extra-hepatic biliary tree altogether represent approximately 30% of the total with incidence rates close to that of hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the third most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. In addition, cholangiocarcinoma is characterized by a very poor prognosis and virtually no response to chemotherapeutics; radical surgery, the only effective treatment, is not frequently applicable because late diagnosis.