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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1997 Aug;114(2):210-7.

Preoperative chemotherapy versus surgical therapy alone for squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus: a prospective randomized trial.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong.



This study investigated the role of preoperative chemotherapy in squamous cell cancer of the esophagus.


A prospective randomized trial was undertaken in 147 patients: 74 received preoperative chemotherapy comprising cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil and 73 had surgical therapy alone. End points were cancer and therapy-related deaths.


Sixty-six patients (89%) in the chemotherapy group underwent resection compared with 69 (95%) in the control group (p = not significant). Of the 60 patients who had resection after completing the chemotherapy program, 35 (58%) had a significant response, of whom four (6.7%) had a complete pathologic response. Postoperative mortality rates were 8.3% and 8.7% in the chemotherapy and control groups, respectively (p = not significant). Significant downstaging was evident with chemotherapy; curative resections were possible in 67% of these patients compared with 35% in the control group (p = 0.0003). T3 and T4 tumors were found in 67% and 91% of the chemotherapy and control groups, respectively (p = 0.0002). The respective figures for N1 disease were 70% and 88% (p = 0.009). An intent-to-treat analysis of survival showed no significant difference between the two groups. Median survivals were 16.8 and 13 months, respectively (p = 0.17). Of those who completed the chemotherapy and resection, responders fared better than control patients. Median survivals were 42.2 months and 13.8 months, respectively (p = 0.003). Median survival (8.3 months) was worse for nonresponders than for control patients (p = 0.03). The recurrence pattern suggested a significant reduction in locoregional disease with chemotherapy.


Preoperative chemotherapy was safe and resulted in significant downstaging and an increased likelihood of curative resection. Survival was not better than that in the surgery-alone group, but responders did fare better than nonresponders.

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