Detecting Pathological Complete Response in Esophageal Cancer after Neoadjuvant Therapy Based on Imaging Techniques: A Diagnostic Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Thorac Oncol. 2019 Jul;14(7):1156-1171. doi: 10.1016/j.jtho.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


Introduction: Up to 32% of patients with esophageal cancer show a pathological complete response (ypCR) after neoadjuvant therapy. To prevent overtreatment, the indication to perform esophagectomy in these patients should be reconsidered. Implementing an organ-preserving strategy for patients with ypCR requires an accurate assessment of residual disease after neoadjuvant treatment. The aim of this study was to systematically review the effectiveness of imaging techniques used for detection of ypCR after neoadjuvant therapy but before resection in patients with esophageal cancer.

Methods: A systematic literature search of the Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases was performed from January 1, 2000, to December 13, 2017. Eligible studies were diagnostic studies that compared results of imaging modalities after neoadjuvant therapy to histopathological findings in the resection specimen after esophagectomy. Methodological quality was assessed by the Cochrane Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies, version 2, model. Primary outcome measures were true positive, false-positive, false-negative, and true negative values of imaging techniques predicting ypCR. A meta-analysis was performed by pooling sensitivities and specificities by using a bivariate model.

Results: A total of 4420 articles were identified. After exclusion of irrelevant titles and abstracts, 360 articles were reviewed in full text. In total, four imaging modalities (computed tomography [CT], positron emission tomography [PET-CT], endoscopic ultrasound [EUS], and magnetic resonance imaging [MRI]) were used for restaging. The meta-analysis was conducted with data from 56 studies involving 3625 patients. The pooled sensitivities of CT, PET-CT, EUS, and MRI for detecting ypCR were 0.35, 0.62, 0.01 and 0.80, respectively, whereas the pooled specificities were 0.83, 0.73, 0.99, and 0.83, respectively. The positive predictive value in detecting ypCR was 0.47 for CT, 0.41 for PET-CT, not applicable for EUS, and 0.61 for MRI.

Conclusion: Current imaging modalities such as CT, PET-CT, and EUS seem to be insufficiently accurate to identify complete responders. More accurate diagnostic tests are needed to improve restaging accuracy for patients with esophageal cancer.

Keywords: Complete response; Esophageal carcinoma; Imaging techniques; Neoadjuvant therapy; Restaging.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods*
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods*
  • Prognosis