, Volume 71, Issue 5, pp 541-555
Date: 18 Nov 2012

Optimal Therapeutic Strategies for Resectable Oesophageal or Oesophagogastric Junction Cancer

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Oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer diagnosed worldwide, with almost half a million new cases diagnosed each year. Despite improvements in surgical and radiotherapy techniques and refinements of chemotherapeutic regimens, long-term survival, even from localized oesophageal cancer, remains poor.

Surgical resection alone remains the standard approach for very early stage disease (stage I), but whilst surgery remains fundamental to the treatment of stage II–III resectable adenocarcinoma, multimodality therapy with chemotherapy or chemoradiation (CRT) is internationally accepted as the standard of care. Data from two large, randomized phase III trials support the use of perioperative combination chemotherapy in lower oesophageal and oesophagogastric junction adenocarcinomas, but the contribution of the adjuvant therapy is uncertain. There are conflicting data from randomized studies of a purely neoadjuvant approach; however, recent meta-analyses have demonstrated that chemotherapy or CRT given prior to radical surgery improves survival in patients with adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus.

Neoadjuvant CRT but not chemotherapy alone is also beneficial for patients with squamous cell carcinoma. Definitive CRT has emerged as a useful option for the treatment of resectable squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus, avoiding potential surgical morbidity and mortality for most patients, with salvage surgery reserved for those with persistent disease.

In this review, we focus on the pharmacotherapy of resectable oesophageal and oesophagogastric junction cancers and how clinical trials and meta-analyses inform current clinical practice.