Curative treatment of esophageal cancer; An evidenced based review

Ravi Shridhar, Reza Imani-Shikhabadi, Bonnie Davis, Oscar A. Streeter, Charles R. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: In 2013, roughly 18,000 cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States with more than 15,000 people dying from the disease. Worldwide, an estimated 482,300 new esophageal cancer cases were diagnosed with 406,800 deaths in 2008. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and adenocarcinoma (AC) account for >90 % of all esophageal cancer cases. Methods: The authors will examine the role of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery in the curative management of esophageal cancer by examining randomized control data, single arm phase II trials, several recently published meta-analyses, as well as retrospective data where there is no clinical trial data available. The role of positron emission tomography (PET) will be reviewed as well. Results: Current data support the role of neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy followed by surgical resection for locally advanced esophageal cancer with 3-year overall survival ranging from 30 % to 60 %. The benefit of adjuvant chemoradiation therapy is limited to margin positive and/or node positive patients. There is emerging data questioning the survival benefit of surgical resection after chemoradiotherapy. External beam radiation therapy alone results in very few long-term survivors and is considered palliative at best. Radiation dose-escalation has failed to improve local control or survival. PET scanning is vital in staging and has become a strong predictor of response and survival. Conclusions: Preoperative or definitive concurrent chemoradiotherapy is the established standard of care for locally advanced cancers of the esophagus. While preoperative chemotherapy is supported by level 1 evidence, the true benefit of induction chemotherapy before chemoradiotherapy has not been established in a prospective randomized control trial. The role of surgery in the management of SCC is still a hotly debated subject, however, it is still recommended for AC. There is no data to support adjuvant chemotherapy after preoperative chemoradiotherapy. The benefit of neoadjuvant chemotherapy seems to be limited AC. Radiation without chemotherapy is palliative and never curative. PET continues to be integrated into treatment decisions and predicts for response and survival after therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Chemoradiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Esophageal cancer
  • PET scan
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology


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