J Cancer 2016; 7(2):125-130. doi:10.7150/jca.13655 This issue

Research Paper

Survival and Symptom Relief after Palliative Radiotherapy for Esophageal Cancer

Julia Welsch1, Philipp Günther Kup1, Carsten Nieder2,3, Veria Khosrawipour4, Helmut Bühler1, Irenäus A. Adamietz1,5,6, Khashayar Fakhrian1,5 ✉

1. Department of Radiation Oncology, Marien Hospital Herne, Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany.
2. Department of Oncology and Palliative Medicine, Nordland Hospital Bodø, Norway
3. Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, Norway.
4. Department of Surgery, Marien Hospital Herne, Ruhr-University Bochum, Herne, Germany.
5. Department of Radiation Oncology, Sankt Josef Hospital Bochum, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany.
6. Department of Radiation Oncology, Ev-Krankenhaus Witten, Academic Hospital of the Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany.

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Welsch J, Kup PG, Nieder C, Khosrawipour V, Bühler H, Adamietz IA, Fakhrian K. Survival and Symptom Relief after Palliative Radiotherapy for Esophageal Cancer. J Cancer 2016; 7(2):125-130. doi:10.7150/jca.13655. Available from https://www.jcancer.org/v07p0125.htm

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Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess the 6-months dysphagia-free survival, improvement in swallowing function, complication rate, and overall survival in patients with incurable esophageal cancer treated with palliative radiotherapy.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed data from 139 patients (median age 72 years) with advanced/recurrent incurable esophageal cancer, who were referred to 3 German radiation oncology centers for palliative radiotherapy between 1994 and 2014. Radiotherapy consisted of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) with 30 - 40.5 Gy/2.5 - 3 Gy per fraction, brachytherapy alone (BT) with 15 - 25 Gy/5 - 7Gy per fraction/weekly and EBRT + BT (30 - 40.5 Gy plus 10 - 14 Gy with BT) in 65, 46, and 28 patients, respectively. Dysphagia-free survival (Dy-PFS) was defined as the time to worsening of dysphagia for at least one point, a new loco-regional failure or death of any cause.

Results: Median follow-up time was 6 months (range 1-6 months). Subjective symptom relief was achieved in 72 % of patients with median response duration of 5 months. The 1-year survival rate was 30%. The 6-months Dy-PFS time for the whole group was 73 ± 4%. The 6-months Dy-PFS was 90 ± 4% after EBRT, 92 ± 5% after EBRT + BT and 37 ± 7% after BT, respectively (p<0.001). Five patients lived for more than 2 years, all of them were treated with EBRT ± BT. Ulceration, fistula and stricture developed in 3, 6 and 7 patients, respectively.

Conclusions: Radiotherapy leads to symptom improvement in the majority of patients with advanced incurable esophageal cancer. The present results favor EBRT ± BT over BT alone. Due to the retrospective nature of this study, imbalances in baseline characteristics might have contributed to this finding, and further trials appear necessary.

Keywords: Esophageal cancer, Palliation, External beam radiation therapy, Brachytherapy, Dysphagia-free survival, Complications