In June 2008, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) sponsored the Henry M. and Lillian Stratton Basic Research Single-Topic Conference on the Pathobiology of Biliary Epithelia and Cholangiocarcinoma, which was held in Atlanta, GA. Attendees from 12 different countries participated in this conference, making it a truly international scientific event. Both oral and poster presentations were given by multidisciplinary experts, who highlighted important areas of current basic and translational research on biliary epithelial cell biology and pathophysiology, and on the etiology, cellular and molecular pathogenesis, and target-based therapy of cholangiocarcinoma. The specific goals and objectives of the conference were: (1) to advance knowledge of basic and molecular mechanisms underlying developmental and proliferative disorders of the biliary tract; (2) to foster a better and more comprehensive understanding of mechanisms regulating biliary epithelial (cholangiocyte) growth and transport, signaling, cell survival, and abnormalities that result in disease; and (3) to understand basic mechanisms of cholangiocarcinoma development and progression, with the added goal of identifying and exploiting potentially critical molecular pathways that may be targeted therapeutically. A number of interrelated themes emerged from the oral and poster sessions that affected current understandings of the complex organization of transcriptional and signaling mechanisms that regulate bile duct development, hepatic progenitor cell expansion, cholangiocyte secretory functions and proliferation, and mechanisms of cholangiocarcinogenesis and malignant cholangiocyte progression. Most notable were the critical questions raised as to how best to exploit aberrant signaling pathways associated with biliary disease as potential targets for therapy.
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