Purpose: The optimal combination and timing of therapy for esophageal cancer remains controversial. The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare registry was used to assess neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy. Methods: Patients diagnosed with nonmetastatic T3+ or N1+ esophageal adenocarcinoma (ACA) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) from 1995 to 2002 who underwent surgical resection within 6 months of diagnosis were studied. Medicare data defined preoperative chemoradiotherapy (preCRT), preoperative radiotherapy (preRT), postoperative CRT (postCRT), chemotherapy and surgery (CT + S), and surgery alone. Results: Of 419 eligible patients, 126 received preCRT, 55 preRT, 40 postCRT, 29 CT + S, and 169 surgery alone. PreCRT yielded median overall survival (OS) of 37 months, greater than surgery alone (17 months, p = 0.002) and postCRT (17 months, p = 0.06). PreRT (20 months, p = 0.20), postCRT (p = 0.88), and CT + S (20 months, p = 0.42) were not associated with OS benefit versus surgery alone. For SCC, preCRT improved survival versus surgery alone (p = 0.01), with a trend for ACA (p = 0.07). ACA (22 months) had greater OS than SCC (17 months) (p = 0.03). ACA, younger age, and married status were associated with increased OS. Adjusting for these, preCRT had longer OS versus surgery alone (p = 0.02) and postCRT (p = 0.03). Chemotherapy agents and surgical approach did not affect OS. Conclusions: In the SEER-Medicare cohort, preCRT significantly improved survival versus surgery alone and postCRT for locally advanced esophageal cancer, particularly for SCC. PreRT, postCRT, and CT + S were not associated with longer survival.
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