Survival and symptom relief after palliative radiotherapy for esophageal cancer
AuthorWelsch, Julia; Kup, Philipp Günther; Nieder, Carsten; Khosrawipour, Veria; Bühler, Helmut; Adamietz, Irenäus A.; Fakhrian, Khashayar
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.