Background: Brachytherapy was found to be preferable to metal stent placement for the palliation of dysphagia because of inoperable esophageal cancer in the randomized SIREC trial. The benefit of brachytherapy, however, only occurred after a relatively long survival. The objective is to develop a model that distinguishes patients with a poor prognosis from those with a relatively good prognosis.
Methods: Survival was analyzed with Cox regression analysis. Dysphagia-adjusted survival (alive with no or mild dysphagia) was studied with Kaplan-Meier analysis. Patient data is from the multicenter, randomized, controlled trial (SIREC, n = 209) and a consecutive series (n = 396). Patients received a stent or single-dose brachytherapy.
Results: Significant prognostic factors for survival included tumor length, World Health Organization performance score, and the presence of metastases (multivariable p < 0.001). A simple score, which also included age and gender, could satisfactorily separate patients with a poor, intermediate, and relatively good prognosis within the SIREC trial. For the poor prognosis group, the difference in dysphagia-adjusted survival was 23 days in favor of stent placement compared with brachytherapy (77 vs. 54 days, p = 0.16). For the other prognostic groups, brachytherapy resulted in a better dysphagia-adjusted survival.
Conclusions: A simple prognostic score may help to identify patients with a poor prognosis in whom stent placement is at least equivalent to brachytherapy. If further validated, this score can provide an evidence-based tool for the selection of palliative treatment in esophageal cancer patients.