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Cancer J. 2001 Sep-Oct;7(5):388-94.

Swallowing function and weight change observed in a phase I/II study of external-beam radiation, brachytherapy and concurrent chemotherapy in localized cancer of the esophagus (RTOG 9207).

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  • 1University of Colorado, Denver, USA.



A multi-institutional, prospective study was designed to determine the feasibility and tolerance of combined-modality chemotherapy, external-beam irradiation, and esophageal brachytherapy in a potentially curable group of patients with adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Swallowing function and weight were assessed before and after treatment.


Planned treatment was with 50 Gy of external-beam irradiation (25 fractions/5 weeks) followed 2 weeks later by esophageal brachytherapy (either a high dose rate of 5 Gy at weeks 8, 9, and 10 for a total of 15 Gy or a low dose rate of 20 Gy at week 8). Chemotherapy was given weeks 1, 5, 8, and 11 with cisplatinum, 75 mg/m2, and 5-fluorouracil, 1,000 mg/m2/24 hours in a 96-hour infusion. Swallowing was graded from 0 (no dysphagia) to 4 (complete obstruction for solids and liquids). Weight "loss" or weight gain was defined as a change in 3-month post- to pretherapy weight of < or = 5% or > 5%, respectively.


The estimated survival rate at 1 and 2 years was 49% and 31%, respectively, and the estimated median survival was 11 months. Swallowing before treatment was graded as grade 1 in 14 patients, grade 2 in 22 patients, grade 3 in nine patients, and grade 4 in four patients. Swallowing grade after treatment was reported as improved in 29 patients (59%), unchanged in 12 patients (24.5%), and worse in eight patients (16.5%). The bestimproved dysphagia score after treatment in the 29 patients reporting improvement was grade 0 in 19 patients, grade 1 in five patients, grade 2 in four patients, and grade 3 in one patient. A posttreatment weight in 42 evaluable patients was categorized as a loss in 29 patients (69%), a gain in four patients (9.5%), and stable in nine patients (21.5%). Weight loss was significantly correlated with high swallowing grade, low performance status, and absence of a feeding tube.


Swallowing function after brachytherapy and concurrent chemoradiation therapy is satisfactory in most surviving patients. Ninety-two percent of patients were able to swallow at least liquids at some point after therapy. Future plans are to compare this with other cooperative group studies that utilized chemoradiation or surgery, without brachytherapy.

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