The purpose of the study was to investigate the difference in overall survival in patients with localized carcinoma of esophagus treated using chemo-radiation (bi-modality, BM) or chemo-radiation followed by surgery (tri-modality, TM). From 1981 to 1999, 65 patients were identified who had localized carcinoma of the esophagus treated with either concurrent chemo-radiation (BM, n = 22) or concurrent chemo-radiation followed by surgery (TM, n = 43) at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. All 65 patients received concurrent chemotherapy and external beam radiation. Radiation was delivered by linear accelerators (≥ 6 MV), except in one patient who had part of his treatment given by a Co-60 machine. Chemotherapy consisted of 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin ± vinblastine under different regimens. Median follow-up time was 10 months (range = 1-195 months) for all patients. Of the 14 patients still alive, the median follow-up time was 32 months (range = 2-192 months). No difference in overall survival was detected between the two treatment groups, BM vs. TM (P = 0.394) despite a selection bias favoring the TM group. Five-year survival rates of the BM and TM groups were 17% and 18%, respectively; 10-year survival rates were 17% and 12%, respectively. The presence of significant past medical history (P = 0.017) and a complete pathologic response in the TM group (P < 0.001) were significant independent predictors of survival. We did not find any difference in survival between chemo-radiation or chemo-radiation followed by surgery in patients with localized carcinoma of the esophagus. Use of biologic markers and functional imaging should be explored in order to segregate patients with different tumor biology for treatment using different treatment strategies.
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