Esophagectomy compared with chemoradiation for early stage esophageal cancer in the elderly

Cancer. 2009 Nov 1;115(21):4924-33. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24536.


Background: : Esophagectomy has been the traditional treatment of choice for early stage esophageal cancer. However, esophagectomy is associated with high mortality and morbidity in the elderly, and these patients often receive chemoradiation instead. The authors of this report compared outcomes of esophagectomy versus chemoradiation in a population-based sample of elderly patients with early stage esophageal cancer.

Methods: : The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database was used to identify patients aged > or =65 years who were diagnosed with stage I or II esophageal cancer from 1991 to 2002. The associations of treatment with esophagectomy or chemoradiation were assessed along with demographic and clinical variables. A survival analyses was performed to compare outcomes with treatment modality and was adjusted for potential confounders.

Results: : Seven hundred thirty patients with stage I or II esophageal cancer were identified who underwent esophagectomy (n = 341; 46.7%) or chemoradiation (n = 389; 53.3%). Older age, squamous cell histology, and lower socioeconomic status were associated with increased odds of receiving chemoradiation. In multivariate analyses, chemoradiation was associated with worse disease-specific survival (hazard ratio [HR], 2.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.64-2.64) and overall survival (HR, 1.92; 95%CI, 1.58-2.34). The receipt of chemoradiation was associated with worse survival for patients with adenocarcinoma (HR, 3.01; 95%CI, 2.24-4.04), but there was no significant difference for patients with squamous cell carcinoma (HR, 1.33; 95%CI, 0.98-1.80).

Conclusions: : Compared with chemoradiation, esophagectomy may be associated with improved survival for early stage esophageal cancer in the elderly. The current results suggest that there also may be a subset of patients with squamous cell carcinoma for whom chemoradiation is adequate therapy. A randomized trial would be useful to determine the optimal treatment for elderly patients with early stage esophageal cancer. Cancer 2009. (c) 2009 American Cancer Society.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / radiotherapy
  • Adenocarcinoma / surgery
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Esophagectomy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • SEER Program
  • Survival Analysis