PURPOSE - To evaluate the effect of surgical resection on the outcome of patients with clinical Stage II or III cancer of the esophagus treated with concurrent chemoradiotherapy.
METHODS AND MATERIALS - A retrospective review of 132 consecutive patients with clinical Stage II or III esophageal cancer treated with concurrent chemoradiotherapy between January 1990 and December 1998 was performed. Of the 132 patients, 60 underwent esophagectomy 6-8 weeks after chemoradiotherapy. The median radiation dose was 50 Gy (range, 30-64.8 Gy) in the definitive chemoradiation group and 45 Gy (range, 30-50.4 Gy) in the chemoradiation plus esophagectomy group.
RESULTS - Statistically significant differences were found between the two groups in median age, histologic subtype, tumor location, and number of patients with T4 disease. Patients who underwent definitive chemoradiotherapy were older (p = 0.0004) and more likely to have squamous cell carcinoma than adenocarcinoma (p <0.000), upper thoracic or cervical esophageal tumors (p <0.000), and T4 tumors (p = 0.024). Patients treated with chemoradiation plus esophagectomy had statistically significant superior 5-year loco-regional control (67.1% vs. 22.1%, p <0.000), disease-free survival (40.7% vs. 9.9%, p < 0.000), and 5-year overall survival (52.6% vs. 6.5%, p < 0.000) rates and median survival time (62 vs. 12 months) compared with patients treated with chemoradiotherapy only. However, no statistically significant difference was found in the rate of distant metastasis-free survival between the two groups (67.5% vs. 65.8%, p = 0.3). Surgical resection of the tumor was an independent predictor of improved locoregional control and overall survival in both univariate and multivariate analyses. To reduce the effect of the selection bias on the outcome, 34 patients in each group with matched pretreatment characteristics were compared. The results showed statistically significant better overall survival, disease-free survival, and locoregional control in favor of the chemoradiotherapy plus esophagectomy group. No statistically significant difference in distant metastasis-free survival was found in this subgroup analysis.
CONCLUSIONS - Locoregional control was better in clinical Stage II or III esophageal cancer patients treated with concurrent chemoradiation plus esophagectomy. An improvement in survival occurred in the chemoradiation plus esophagectomy group, although this observation may have reflected selection bias. The results from this study suggest the need for a randomized trial to compare chemoradiation with or without esophagectomy in the treatment of cancer of the esophagus.