Cell of origin in biliary tract cancers and clinical implications

Agrin Moeini, Philipp K. Haber, Daniela Sia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Biliary tract cancers (BTCs) are aggressive epithelial malignancies that can arise at any point of the biliary tree. Albeit rare, their incidence and mortality rates have been rising steadily over the past 40 years, highlighting the need to improve current diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. BTCs show high inter- and intra-tumour heterogeneity both at the morphological and molecular level. Such complex heterogeneity poses a substantial obstacle to effective interventions. It is widely accepted that the observed heterogeneity may be the result of a complex interplay of different elements, including risk factors, distinct molecular alterations and multiple potential cells of origin. The use of genetic lineage tracing systems in experimental models has identified cholangiocytes, hepatocytes and/or progenitor-like cells as the cells of origin of BTCs. Genomic evidence in support of the distinct cell of origin hypotheses is growing. In this review, we focus on recent advances in the histopathological subtyping of BTCs, discuss current genomic evidence and outline lineage tracing studies that have contributed to the current knowledge surrounding the cell of origin of these tumours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100226
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Biliary tract cancers
  • Cell of origin
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Genomics
  • Lineage tracing
  • Personalized therapy


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