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Anticancer Res. 2007 Jul-Aug;27(4C):2705-14.

Palliative chemotherapy for recurrent and metastatic esophageal cancer.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Oncology, University of Vienna, Austria.


More than two-thirds of patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer will have unresectable disease. The objective of this article is to review the clinical trials utilizing cytotoxic chemotherapy in patients with recurrent and metastatic esophageal cancer. A computerized (MEDLINE) search was performed to identify papers published on this topic between 1966 and 2007. A total of 96 trials were subsequently identified. Two randomized trials compared palliative chemotherapy with best supportive care in 180 patients with advanced esophageal cancer. Effectiveness and side-effects were evaluated in 49 phase II studies and 3 randomized phase III trials. Combination chemotherapy as compared to monochemotherapy is associated with significantly higher response rates but nevertheless results in similar survival. CF (cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil) currently represents one of the most effective regimens for advanced esophageal cancer, while among the newer combinations, irinotecan or taxane-based regimens have also given promising results. Prognosis for the majority of patients, however, remains poor as increases in survival were moderate at best.

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