Introduction: Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a rare, heterogenous, chronic cholestatic liver disease that causes fibro-inflammatory destruction of the intra- and/or extrahepatic bile ducts. The disease course may be variable, though in many cases it ultimately leads to biliary cirrhosis and its associated complications. PSC is also associated with malignancies, in particular cholangiocarcinoma (CCA), a dreaded neoplasm of the biliary tract with a poor prognosis. Risk stratification and surveillance for this malignancy are important components of the care of patients with PSC.
Areas covered: In this review, we discuss important considerations in the clinical epidemiology, risk factors, diagnosis, and surveillance of PSC-associated CCA.
Expert opinion: Despite growing awareness of PSC, high-quality evidence regarding the management of PSC and its associated risk of CCA remains limited. Early diagnosis of PSC-associated CCA remains difficult, and treatment options are limited, especially when diagnosed at later stages. The recent introduction of recommendations for CCA surveillance will likely improve outcomes, though an optimal surveillance approach has yet to be validated prospectively. Further research is needed in the development of high-accuracy (and noninvasive) surveillance and diagnostic tools that may facilitate earlier diagnosis of CCA and potential disease cure.