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Phase II studies on docetaxel alone every third week, or weekly in combination with gemcitabine in patients with primary locally advanced, metastatic, or recurrent esophageal cancer



The purpose of these studies was to compare efficacy and toxicity of docetaxel alone with the combination of gemcitabine and docetaxel for treatment of metastatic esophageal carcinoma.

Patients and methods

These studies enrolled patients with histopathologically verified squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma of the esophagus or cardia. Between March 1997 and June 1999, 52 patients were enrolled in the initial Phase II study (Study 1). They were scheduled for treatment with docetaxel 100 mg/m2 every third week as a 1-h infusion. The second Phase II study between September 2000 and March 2003 included 65 patients (Study II). They were given docetaxel 30 mg/m2, administered as a 30-min i.v. infusion weekly for four times, followed by 2 weeks of rest, and gemcitabine starting with a dose of 750 mg/m2 (if well-tolerated 1,000 mg/m2) on days 1 and 15, followed by 3 weeks of rest. A new cycle began on day 36. Patients were premedicated with betamethasone 8 mg p.o. on the evening before, and 8 mg i.v. 30–60 min before the docetaxel infusion. Response was confirmed by computed tomography and assessed at 12 and 24 weeks. Toxicity was assessed according to WHO scales.


In study I, 38 out of the 52 enrolled patients were valuable. Two patients experienced complete remission (CR) (5%), 10 patients partial remission (PR) (26%), nine patients stable disease (SD) (24%), and 17 patients showed progressive disease (PD) (45%). Toxicity mainly involved leukopenia, which in some cases required hospitalization and treatment with antibiotics. In Study II, 46 out of the 65 enrolled patients (70%) were assessable. Out of these, three patients (7%) had CR, eight patients (17%) had PR, 10 patients (22%) had SD, and 25 (54%) PD. Overall response was 24% while an additional 22% showed stable disease. Toxicity mainly consisted of leucopenia and pain.


Docetaxel as a single agent is active in esophageal cancer, both in treatment naive and in previously treated patients with recurrent disease. The overall response rate was 31%, with a good-safety profile. The addition of gemcitabine is well tolerated, but adds no efficacy. Weekly administration of docetaxel may be less effective. It demonstrates moderate efficacy and the doses used provide an acceptable safety profile.

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Correspondence to M. Albertsson.

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Albertsson, M., Johansson, B., Friesland, S. et al. Phase II studies on docetaxel alone every third week, or weekly in combination with gemcitabine in patients with primary locally advanced, metastatic, or recurrent esophageal cancer. Med Oncol 24, 407–412 (2007).

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  • Metastatic
  • Esophageal
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Chemotherapy
  • Docetaxel
  • Gemcitabine
  • Esophageal cancer