PURPOSE - To investigate the effect of induction chemotherapy (CHT) before trimodality therapy on the outcome of patients with resectable cancer of the esophagus.
METHODS AND MATERIALS - This retrospective study included 81 consecutive patients with resectable cancer of the esophagus who received neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy followed by esophagectomy between January 1990 and December 1998 (inclusive). Thirty-nine patients underwent chemoradiotherapy followed by esophagectomy (CHT/RT+S), 42 received additional induction CHT followed by CHT/RT+S (CHT+CHT/RT+S). Of the 81 patients, 47 were entered in institutional or national prospective trials (6 in the CHT/RT+S and 41 in the CHT+CHT/RT+S group). Induction CHT consisted of three courses of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), cisplatin, and paclitaxel given in 28-day cycles in 37 patients (88.1%). Concurrent CHT was 5-FU and platinum based. The median radiation dose for patients treated with CHT/RT+S was 30 Gy (range, 30-50.4 Gy) delivered in a median of 10 fractions (range, 10-28 fractions) and 45 Gy (range, 30-45 Gy) in a median of 25 fractions (range, 10-25 fractions) for patients treated with CHT+CHT/RT+S. Esophagectomy was performed 6-8 weeks after completion of concurrent chemoradiotherapy. Most patients underwent transthoracic esophagectomy (n = 66, 82.5%).
RESULTS - The pretreatment characteristics were well balanced between the two groups except for age. The median follow-up time was 29 months (22 months for the CHT/RT+S group and 38.5 months for the CHT+CHT/RT+S group) for all patients and 49 months for living patients. The actuarial overall survival (OS), disease-free survival (DFS), locoregional control (LRC), and distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) rate at 5 years for the entire group was 46%, 36.6%, 70.7%, and 53.2%, respectively. Statistically significant differences in the OS, DFS, and LRC rates between the two groups were detected. Specifically, the 5-year OS rate was 22.8% and 71.1% in the CHT/RT+S and CHT+CHT/RT+S group (p = 0.0001), respectively. The 5-year DFS rate was 27.6% and 56.6% in the CHT/RT+S and CHT+CHT/RT+S group (p = 0.003), respectively. The 5-year LRC rate was 64.2% and 85.6% in the CHT/RT+S and CHT+CHT/RT+S group (p = 0.007), respectively. The difference in the DMFS rate between the two groups was statistically significant, with a 2- and 5-year actuarial rate of 63.9% and 51.9%, respectively, in the CHT/RT+S group and 76.9% and 74.1%, respectively, in the CHT+CHT/RT+S group (p = 0.04). The statistically significant differences persisted when patients who received >/=45 Gy in each group were compared. Among those patients, the 5-year OS, DFS, LRC, and DMFS rates were 23.1%, 15.4%, 58.6%, and 39.2%, respectively, for those receiving CHT/RT+S, and 71.4% (p = 0.001), 55.8% (p = 0.0008), 84.6% (p = 0.005), and 77.3% (p = 0.009), respectively, for those receiving CHT+CHT/RT+S. The pathologic complete response (pCR) rate was greater in the CHT+CHT/RT+S group compared with in the CHT/RT+S group (p = 0.008). In univariate analysis, young age, good Karnofsky performance status, Stage II disease, total radiation dose, multiple drug regimen for concurrent CHT, pCR, R0 resection, distant disease progression, and CHT+CHT/RT+S treatment proved to be prognostic factors for OS. Lower esophageal/gastroesophageal junction tumor location, pCR, R0 resection, and CHT+CHT/RT+S treatment were favorable prognostic factors for LRC. Neither the total radiation dose nor multiple drugs for concurrent CHT were negative prognostic factors for LRC. In multivariate analysis, pCR, R0 resection, and treatment with CHT+CHT/RT+S were independent positive predictive factors for OS, and distant recurrences were negative predictive factors for OS. R0 resection, CHT+CHT/RT+S treatment, and lower esophageal/gastroesophageal junction tumor location were positive predictive factors for LRC. The radiation dose was not identified as an independent prognostic factor for either OS or LRC in the multivariate analysis. Meaningful multivariate analysis could not be performed when the multiple drug vperformed when the multiple drug variable was included in the model because of the small number of patients.
CONCLUSION - Significantly greater LRC, DFS, OS, and DMFS were found in patients treated with CHT+CHT/RT+S compared with those treated with CHT/RT+S. The pCR rate was significantly higher in the CHT+CHT/RT+S group. Induction CHT was an independent favorable prognostic factor for both LRC and OS for the population included in this study. Our data suggest that a randomized trial comparing CHT+CHT/RT+S and CHT/RT+S is warranted to assess further the merits of this treatment in patients with this currently very lethal cancer.