A trial of photodynamic therapy for biliary tree cancer (PHOTOSTENT 01)

Cancer type:

Bile duct cancer
Biliary tree cancers
Gallbladder cancer




Phase 2

This trial was looking at photodynamic therapy (PDT) for biliary tree cancer (bile duct cancer or gallbladder cancer).

Bile duct cancers (cholangiocarcinoma) and gallbladder cancers are known together as biliary tree cancers. If it is not possible to remove these cancers with surgery, or they have spread to other parts of the body, they can be very difficult to treat. But doctors are looking for new ways to control the symptoms of biliary tree cancer.

In this trial, they looked at photodynamic therapy to treat the symptoms of biliary tree cancers. When you have PDT, you take a drug which makes your cells more sensitive to light. About 48 hours later, the doctors shine a laser light onto your cancer cells.

Earlier clinical trials had suggested that PDT could help people with bile duct cancer. In this trial, the researchers wanted to learn more about the safety of PDT and how well it worked as a treatment for biliary tree cancer that could not be removed with surgery.

Summary of results

The researchers found that they could safely give photodynamic therapy (PDT) for biliary tree cancer.

The trial recruited 36 people. They had all been diagnosed with biliary tree cancer in the previous 8 weeks and could not have surgery to remove their cancer. They’d already had a small tube called a stent put into their bile duct Open a glossary item if the duct was blocked.

Everybody taking part had photodynamic therapy. The most common side effect was mild tummy (abdominal) pain, which 17 people had. Five people had an infection after the treatment but nobody had very bad side effects.

The researchers were able to look at scan results for 23 people in the trial. These showed that

  • In 11 people the cancer had stayed the same size  - doctors call this stable disease Open a glossary item
  • 1 person’s cancer had got a bit smaller – this is called a partial response Open a glossary item
  • In the other 11 people, the cancer had got worse

Because PDT could be given safely and seemed to help some people with biliary tree cancer, the trial team set up another trial looking at PDT for this type of cancer. This other trial has now finished recruiting patients.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Steve Pereira

Supported by

Axcan Pharma Inc
Cancer Research UK
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
University College London (UCL)

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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 108

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

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"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

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