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Radiother Oncol. 2000 Sep;56(3):329-33.

A prospective trial of short-course radiotherapy plus chemotherapy for palliation of dysphagia from advanced esophageal cancer.

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The Radiation Oncology Research Unit, Department of Oncology, Queen's University, Kingston Regional Cancer Centre, Kingston, ON, Canada.



Between 1994 and 1997, 22 patients with dysphagia from advanced incurable esophageal cancer were enrolled in a phase I/II prospective study to assess the palliative benefit and toxicity of a short course of radiotherapy with chemotherapy.


The study population included 17 men and five women with a median age of 69 (range 43-84). Patients were treated with 30 Gy in ten fractions to the mediastinum with a concurrent single course of chemotherapy (5-FU, 1000 mg/m(2), days 1-4 and mitomycin-C 10 mg/m(2), day 1). Swallowing ability was recorded each day on a self-administered diary card using the five point dysphagia index of the MRC (UK). The median baseline MRC swallowing score was 4 (cannot swallow solids).


Treatment was generally well tolerated, but seven (32%) patients had transient worsening of dysphagia scores immediately following treatment because of esophagitis; fifteen (68%) achieved a complete response (score 1: no difficulty on swallowing) with a median time to normalization of swallowing of 5 weeks. For these patients, the median dysphagia-free interval from time of onset of improvement was 11 weeks (range 1-131 weeks) and 11 (73%) remained dysphagia-free until death. The remaining patients had no or marginal improvement. Univariate analysis showed no difference between responders and non-responders with respect to age, gender, or histology. Median survival for the entire study population was 20 weeks (range 3-135 weeks).


This prospective trial shows that a short course of radiotherapy plus chemotherapy may produce complete relief of swallowing difficulties in a substantial proportion of patients with acceptable toxicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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