Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma (ICC)

Liver Cancer Research at Dana-Farber

Our Liver Cancer Center includes experts in oncology, interventional radiology, surgery, radiation oncology, and hepatology who improve the outcome for patients with primary and secondary (or metastatic) liver cancer.

Your care team will collaborate to develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that offers the most advanced therapies and an array of supportive resources.

Liver Cancer Center

What Is Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma (ICC)?

Cholangiocarcinoma is cancer that forms in the bile ducts, which are a series of thin tubes that go from the liver to the small intestine. Bile ducts carry a fluid called bile from the liver and gallbladder into the small intestine, where it helps digest the fats in food. Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer, is an uncommon form of cancer that occurs mostly in people older than age 50.

Cancer that occurs in the parts of the bile ducts that are within the liver is called intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), also known as intrahepatic bile duct cancer. ICC is a rare disease and makes up about 10% of all cholangiocarcinoma. ICC is treated at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center Liver Cancer Center. Another more common form of bile duct cancer is extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, or biliary cancer, which is cancer occurring outside the liver. The Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center treats patients with pancreatic and biliary disease.

Risk Factors for Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

Risk factors for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma include:

  • Chronic inflammation of the bile duct, which can result from primary sclerosing cholangitis, bile duct stones, choledochal cysts, liver fluke infections, cirrhosis and the hepatitis B and C viruses, as well as abnormalities that cause a backflow of digestive juices into the bile duct.
  • Chronic ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Polycystic liver disease.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Obesity.

Signs and Symptoms of Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

These and other signs and symptoms also may be caused by cholangiocarcinoma or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Dark urine
  • Clay colored stool
  • Fever
  • Intensely itchy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

How We Diagnose Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Tests that examine the bile ducts and nearby organs are used to diagnose and stage intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The following test and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and health history
  • Liver function test
  • Laboratory tests
  • Ultrasound, CT scan, MRI

How We Treat Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

The team of experts at the Liver Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center have deep expertise in treating intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. The Center conducts crucial research and clinical trials to learn more about the disease and develop promising new treatments.

There are different types of treatment for patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Three types of standard treatment are used:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy