Therapeutic strategies in oesophageal carcinoma: role of surgery and other modalities

Lancet Oncol. 2007 Jun;8(6):545-53. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(07)70172-9.


Traditionally, surgery is considered the best treatment for oesophageal cancer in terms of locoregional control and long-term survival. However, survival 5 years after surgery alone is about 25%, and, therefore, a multidisciplinary approach that includes surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, alone or in combination, could prove necessary. The role of each of these treatments in the management of oesophageal cancer is under intensive research to define optimum therapeutic strategies. In this report we provide an update on treatment strategies for resectable oesophageal cancers on the basis of recent published work. Results of the latest randomised trials allow us to propose the following guidelines: surgery is the standard treatment, to be used alone for stages I and IIa, or possibly with neoadjuvant chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy for stage IIb disease. For locally advanced cancers (stage III), neoadjuvant chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery is appropriate for adenocarcinomas. Chemoradiotherapy alone should only be considered in patients with squamous-cell carcinomas who show a morphological response to chemoradiotherapy, and produces a similar overall survival to chemoradiotherapy followed by surgery, but with less post-treatment morbidity. Although the addition of surgery to chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy could result in improved local control and survival, surgery should be done in experienced hospitals where operative mortality and morbidity are low. Moreover, surgery should be kept in mind as salvage treatment in patients with no morphological response or persistent tumour after definitive chemoradiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant


  • Antineoplastic Agents