Surgery alone versus chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery for resectable cancer of the oesophagus: a randomised controlled phase III trial

Lancet Oncol. 2005 Sep;6(9):659-68. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(05)70288-6.


Background: Resection remains the best treatment for carcinoma of the oesophagus in terms of local control, but local recurrence and distant metastasis remain an issue after surgery. We aimed to assess whether a short preoperative chemoradiotherapy regimen improves outcomes for patients with resectable oesophageal cancer.

Methods: 128 patients were randomly assigned to surgery alone and 128 patients to surgery after 80 mg/m(2) cisplatin on day 1, 800 mg/m(2) fluorouracil on days 1-4, with concurrent radiotherapy of 35 Gy given in 15 fractions. The primary endpoint was progression-free survival. Secondary endpoints were overall survival, tumour response, toxic effects, patterns of failure, and quality of life. Analysis was done by intention to treat.

Findings: Neither progression-free survival nor overall survival differed between groups (hazard ratio [HR] 0.82 [95% CI 0.61-1.10] and 0.89 [0.67-1.19], respectively). The chemoradiotherapy-and-surgery group had more complete resections with clear margins than did the surgery-alone group (103 of 128 [80%] vs 76 of 128 [59%], p=0.0002), and had fewer positive lymph nodes (44 of 103 [43%] vs 69 of 103 [67%], p=0.003). Subgroup analysis showed that patients with squamous-cell tumours had better progression-free survival with chemoradiotherapy than did those with non-squamous tumours (HR 0.47 [0.25-0.86] vs 1.02 [0.72-1.44]). However, the trial was underpowered to determine the real magnitude of benefit in this subgroup.

Interpretation: Preoperative chemoradiotherapy with cisplatin and fluorouracil does not significantly improve progression-free or overall survival for patients with resectable oesophageal cancer compared with surgery alone. However, further assessment is warranted of the role of chemoradiotherapy in patients with squamous-cell tumours.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Survival Rate


  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil