Walter Payton Dies - Bile Duct Cancer & Sclerosing Cholangitis

Nov. 1, 1999 -- The American football legend Walter Payton died today at his home near Chicago at age 45. Mr. Payton was the all-time leading rusher in the history of the National Football League.

It was well known that he had a progressive liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. However, the cause of Mr. Payton's death was bile duct cancer, said Dr. Greg Gores, his physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

During a news conference in Chicago on Feb. 2, Mr. Payton had revealed that he had primary sclerosing cholangitis. He said doctors had told him he would need a liver transplant within two years. Only a week later, this time table was revised and he was told that he needed a transplant by the end of 1999.

Dr. Gores indicated that Mr. Payton had received chemotherapy and radiation treatment after the bile duct cancer was diagnosed but that the cancer had progressed to where "transplantation was no longer a viable option."

The purpose of this article is to provide perspectives on both of Mr. Payton's illnesses: bile duct cancer and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Bile Duct Cancer

Bile duct cancer is a rare disease in which there are malignant cells in the tissues of the extrahepatic bile duct. The bile duct is a tube that connects the liver and the gallbladder to the small intestine. The part of the bile duct that is outside the liver is called the extrahepatic bile duct.