Purpose: To evaluate the rate and pattern of recurrences after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT) in esophageal cancer patients.
Methods: We described survival and differences in recurrences from a single center between neoadjuvant CRT (carboplatin/paclitaxel and 41.4 Gy) and surgery alone for the period 2000-2011. To reduce bias, we performed a propensity score matched analysis.
Results: A total of 204 patients were analyzed, 75 treated with neoadjuvant CRT and 129 with surgery alone. The pathologic response to neoadjuvant CRT was 69% with a complete response rate of 25%. After matching, baseline characteristics between the groups (both n = 75) were equally distributed. The 3- and 5-year disease-free survival was 53 and 42% in the neoadjuvant CRT group compared with 24 and 18% in the surgery-alone group (P = 0.011). After 3 and 5 years' CRT, patients had an estimated locoregional recurrence-free survival of 83 and 73% compared with 52 and 49% in the surgery-alone group (P = 0.015). The distant recurrence-free survival was comparable in both groups. Locoregional recurrences were located less in the paraesophageal lymph nodes in the CRT group than in the surgery-alone group, 9 versus 21%, respectively (P = 0.041). With respect to differences in distant recurrences, we observed more skeletal recurrences in the surgery-alone group compared to CRT, 12 versus 1% (P = 0.009).
Conclusions: The neoadjuvant CRT regimen we used offers a significant improvement in outcome, with a different recurrence pattern compared with surgery alone. This effect is probably due to both the pathologic complete response and eradication of micrometastases in CRT group.