Downstaging of esophageal cancer after preoperative radiation and chemotherapy

Ann Surg. 1995 Jun;221(6):685-93; discussion 693-5. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199506000-00008.


Objective: This retrospective, nonrandomized review evaluates 125 patients with esophageal carcinoma (adenocarcinoma and squamous cell) who underwent either surgery only or preoperative chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy followed by surgery. Major end points were survival and postchemoradiation downstaging.

Methods: Forty-four patients underwent radiation therapy of 4500 cGy over 5 weeks. Fluorouracil and cisplatin were administered on the first and fifth week of radiotherapy. Ninety-eight patients underwent "potentially curative" resections-transhiatal esophagectomy (70), Lewis esophagogastrectomy (25), and left esophagogastrectomy (3). All patients with preoperative adjuvant therapy underwent endoscopy and biopsy before surgery.

Results: There were no differences in overall mortality (5%) or surgical complications in either group. Fourteen of 44 patients (32%) downstaged to complete pathologic response, with 5-year survival of 57%. Fifteen of 44 patients (34%) downstaged to microscopic residual tumor, with 1- and 3-year survival of 77% and 31%, respectively. Twenty-eight of 29 patients in the two downstaged groups were lymph node negative. Overall, 5-year survival in the adjuvant therapy plus surgery group versus surgery only was 36% and 11% (p = 0.04). Five-year survival in lymph node-negative adjuvant therapy and surgery patients was 49% (p = 0.005). Positive nodes in the surgery only group was 48% versus 23% in the adjuvant therapy and surgery group (p = 0.02).

Conclusion: Although retrospective and nonrandomized, these results suggest that preoperative chemoradiation results in significant clinical and pathologic downstaging, increases survival, and may sterilize local and regional lymph nodes, accounting for both downstaging and survival statistics.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / secondary
  • Adenocarcinoma / therapy*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Preoperative Care
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate