The purpose of this trial was to examine the feasibility of intensive, sequential chemo- and radiochemotherapy followed by surgery in patients with locally advanced carcinomas of the lower oesophagus and the gastro-oesophageal junction (GO junction). The chemotherapy consisted of two courses of 6 weekly administrations of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) (2.0 g/m2, 24 h infusion) and folinic acid (FA) (500 mg/m2, 2 h infusion) combined with twice weekly cisplatin (50 mg/m2, 1 h infusion). Irradiation of 30 Gy was given concurrently with one course of cisplatin and etoposide. 25 patients with locally advanced (T3-T4 NX M0) squamous cell or adenocarcinoma of the lower oesophagus and GO junction were included and evaluated. Toxicity was usually mild to moderate (WHO grade 1 and 2) with mucositis as the most important side-effect of the pre-operative treatment. Of the patients, 94 and 88% completed the chemo- and radiochemotherapy according to the protocol, respectively. A major response (= partial remission with subjective improvement) to chemotherapy was achieved in 6/10 patients with squamous cell carcinoma and 10/15 with adenocarcinoma. 19 patients had subsequent surgery and complete resection was achieved in 16 (3 patients had intra-abdominal metastases observed at laparotomy). The operative mortality rate was 16% (3/19). 10 of the 16 patients with tumour resection had a pathological complete response. 15 patients (43%) remain alive at a median follow-up of 20 months and the median survival exceeds 16+ months. Our data suggest that this intensive pre-operative chemoradiotherapy programme is feasible and remarkably effective in patients with locally advanced carcinomas of the lower oesophagus or GO junction.