Similar outcomes for salvage vs. planned surgery after chemoradiotherapy in esophageal cancer




For patients with esophageal cancer, salvage surgery after definitive chemoradiotherapy had similar mortality and morbidity rates, and similar survival outcomes, to the combination of neoadjuvant chemoradiation and planned surgery, according to a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Definitive chemoradiotherapy (dCRT) is an alternative to highly invasive surgical resection, which carries a significant rate of morbidity and mortality; however, recent data indicate that 50% of patients with complete response to dCRT experience tumor recurrence.


“Our study demonstrated a similar survival and recurrence pattern for the SALV [salvage surgery after definitive chemoradiotherapy] and NCRS [neoadjuvant chemoradiation and planned surgery] groups, potentially validating an approach of dCRT with reserved SALV for persistent or recurrent disease. Importantly, there were no differences in oncologic safety of surgery, including extent of nodal dissection, between the SALV and NCRS groups,” wrote Dr. Sheraz Markar, a clinical research fellow from Imperial College, London, and colleagues (Journ. Clin. Onc. 2015 July 20 [doi:10.1200/JCO.2014.59.9092]).

The retrospective study compared 308 patients with esophageal cancer who underwent SALV with 540 patients who received NCRS at European centers from 2000 to 2010. After a median follow up of 54 months, the SALV and NCRS groups had similar rates of 3-year overall survival (43.3% vs. 40.1% ) and disease-free survival (39.2% vs. 32.8%). The two groups also had similar rates tumor recurrence: overall (46.8% vs. 47.9%), locoregional (18.8% vs. 15.9%), distant (24.3% vs. 28.1%) and mixed (13.0% vs. 13.5%).

The SALV and NCRS groups had similar rates of in-hospital mortality (8.4% vs. 9.3%) and morbidity (63.6% vs. 58.9%), but SALV patients had significantly more complications from anastomotic leak (17.2% vs. 10.7%) and surgical site infection (18.5% vs. 12.2%).

Subset analysis of the SALV group showed that patients who received a total radiation dose ≥ 55 Gy (compared with SALV patients who received a lower dose) had significantly increased in-hospital mortality (27.8% vs. 4.3%; P < .001), overall morbidity (75.9% vs. 61%; P = .039), anastomotic leak (27.8% vs. 15%; P = .023), surgical site infection (29.6% vs. 16.1%; P = .02), and pulmonary complications (55.6% vs. 40.2%; P = .038).

“Currently, there is no evidence in terms of locoregional control or survival benefit to support a high total radiation dose (> 50 Gy) in patients receiving dCRT,” according to the researchers, who noted that the findings suggest, “an upper threshold of 50 Gy should be used in these patients to optimize the benefits of dCRT without compromising the safety of SALV, if required.”

Patients who underwent SALV at high-volume centers had significantly lower rates of in-hospital mortality (6.3% vs. 16.2%; P = .009) and overall morbidity (58.8% vs. 80.9%; P = .001) compared with procedures done at low-volume centers.

Compared with recurrent disease, patients with persistent disease after dCRT had poorer long-term prognoses, suggesting a more aggressive tumor biology. Early identification of CRT-resistant tumors to allow early surgical treatment is an important area for future investigation, the investigators said.

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