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Ann Thorac Surg. 1996 Oct;62(4):1005-9; discussion 1009-10.

Photodynamic therapy for esophageal malignancy: a prospective twelve-year study.

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  • 1Grant Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA.



We wanted to determine factors affecting survival rates of benefits to, and complications in patients with esophageal cancer treated with photodynamic therapy.


From 1982 to January 1994, we used photodynamic therapy to treat 77 patients with esophageal carcinoma and evaluated survival to July 1994. All patients had failed, refused, or were ineligible for surgical intervention, ionizing radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.


The only significant variable affecting survival was clinical stage. Median survival after photodynamic therapy was as follows: all patients, 6.3 months (mean survival, 9.2 months); stage I, not reached; stage II, 12 months; stage III, 6.2 months; and stage IV, 3.5 months. For stages III and IV, a Karnofsky performance status of 70 or higher had a significant effect. For stage III, the median survival was 6.3 months when the Karnofsky performance status was equal to or greater than 70 and 3.5 months when it was less than 70. For stage IV, the median survival was 5.5 months when the Karnofsky performance status was equal to or greater than 70 and 2.5 months when it was lower than 70. Seven stage I patients with no treatment prior to photodynamic therapy had an estimated 5-year survival rate of 62%. Three patients with stage I invasive adenocarcinoma and Barrett's mucosa diagnosed when they underwent endoscopy for dysphagia were alive with no evidence of disease 17, 44, and 59 months after photodynamic therapy.


Photodynamic therapy for esophageal carcinoma caused minimal complications and no procedure-related deaths. Photodynamic therapy can be considered an alternative treatment for patients with Barrett's esophagus with severe dysplasia or patients with stage I carcinoma who are under consideration for operation but are high surgical risks. The length of palliation for patients having "noncurative" treatment was equal to or better than that reported historically for most other treatment regimens.

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