BACKGROUND - The aim of this study was to evaluate the overall response rate, toxicity and overall survival in patients with locally advanced or metastatic esophageal cancer treated with gemcitabine, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin.
PATIENTS AND METHODS - Patients with either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus could enroll; however, patients could not have received prior chemotherapy for metastatic disease. Treatment cycles consisted of infusions of all three agents at days 1, 8 and 15, repeated every 28 days. Patients received gemcitabine 1,000, leucovorin 25 and 5-FU 600 mg/m(2). Tumor assessment was performed every 2 cycles. Responses were assessed using the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group solid tumor response criteria.
RESULTS - Thirty-five patients with metastatic or locally advanced esophageal cancer enrolled. One complete response and ten partial responses were observed for an overall response rate of 31.4%. An additional 11 patients had stable disease as their best response. The median survival was 9.8 months with a 1-year survival rate of 37.1%. Toxicity was predominately hematologic, with 58% of patients experiencing grade 3 or 4 neutropenia.
CONCLUSION - The combination of gemcitabine, 5-FU and leucovorin had activity in advanced esophageal cancer. Patients tolerated the regimen well, with myelosuppression occurring most commonly. The combination merits further investigation as a treatment for esophageal cancer.