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Ann Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2002 Jun;8(3):123-30.

Preoperative concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed by surgery for esophageal cancer.

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Department of Surgery and Clinical Oncology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, Japan.


Currently, the most promising strategy to improve the prognosis of advanced esophageal cancer is preoperative chemoradiation (CRT) followed by surgery. The superiority of CRT over radiation therapy alone has been demonstrated by several randomized studies. Many phase II studies of CRT followed by surgery have shown that the pathologic complete response (CR) rate ranges from 17 to 40%, and the median survival time (MST) is 12 to 31.3 months. Five randomized trials have compared preoperative CRT followed by surgery with surgery alone for resectable esophageal cancer, and four of them did not find any significant survival benefit for the combined treatment group. There are several issues in interpreting these findings, such as the quality of the surgery, the accuracy of the preoperative staging, the statistical power and design of the trials. Until comprehensive evaluation can be done, the standard therapy for resectable esophageal cancer should be considered to be surgery alone. The histological response in the resected specimen correlates well with the prognosis. Patients with pathologic CR display significantly better survival than those with microscopic residual cancer cells in the resected specimens. These findings suggest that more potent regimens leading to higher pathologic CR rates should improve the prognosis. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy sensitivity testing needs to be established. If accurate prediction of the response is possible prior to therapy, non-responders can be excluded. Cell cycle-related genes, apoptosis-related genes, and drug metabolizing genes have been investigated in many pilot studies and need to be evaluated by large-scale clinical studies. At present, pathologic CR can not be accurately diagnosed before surgery. Endoscopic biopsy is also unreliable for the diagnosis. In the future, new diagnostic tools such as positron emission tomography scanning, a sensitivity test or molecular markers may enable accurate diagnosis of pathologic CR to guide the choice of treatment strategies for individual patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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