Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas (ICCs) are made up of heterogenous carcinomas arising from different anatomical sites of the liver. Two types of candidate stem/progenitor cells of the biliary tree are postulated to exist at the peribiliary glands for large bile ducts and at the canals of Hering for small ducts and hepatocytes. According to the recent observations, ICCs can be subclassified into two types: tumors involving the large bile ducts comparable in size to the intrahepatic second branches and composed of a tubular or papillary component with tall columnar epithelium, and tumors involving the smaller duct than segmental branches and composed of small tubules with cuboidal epithelium. Perihilar large duct type ICCs can be interpreted as arising from large bile duct type ICCs, and peripheral small duct type ICCs may arise from small bile duct type or ductular type ICCs. Chronic biliary inflammation induces neoplastic change of the large bile ducts and thereby progression to the perihilar large duct type ICC, which can be grossly classified into periductal filtrating type ICC and intraductal growth type ICC, while chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis induces mass-forming peripheral small duct type ICC. The different morphological and molecular features, including stromal components and tumor vasculature, support the hypothesis that perihilar large duct type ICCs and peripheral small duct type ICCs arise from different backgrounds, have different carcinogenetic pathways, and exhibit different biologic behaviors.
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