Chemotherapy of Oesophago-Gastric Cancer


Department of Medicine and the Gastrointestinal Unit, The Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, UK


Oesophageal and gastric cancers are common tumors that represent a number of challenges for oncologists, gastroenterologists and surgeons. The prognosis remains poor with the majority of patients presenting with advanced disease. Combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy has demonstrated a survival benefit in patients with loco-regional oesophageal cancer compared to radiotherapy alone. In an interim analysis we have observed a 62% response rate using a chemoradiation regimen based on protracted venous infusion of 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin combined with radiotherapy in patients with inoperable oesophageal cancer. Improved outcomes with loco-regional disease has rekindled interest in preoperative therapy. In a trial comparing preoperative chemoradiation to surgery alone in patients with operable oesophageal adenocarcinoma, survival was improved with multimodality treatment. In addition, a study including both adeno- and squamous carcinomas demonstrated a trend towards improved survival. A complete pathological response to chemoradiation was associated with significantly improved survival. Gastric cancer is one of the most chemosensitive solid tumors of the gastrointestinal tract with the majority of patients being suitable for palliative chemotherapy. The ECF (epirubicin, cisplatin, protracted venous infusion 5-fluorouracil) regimen was developed in the Gastrointestinal unit of the Royal Marsden Hospital and first reported in 1991. In a prospective randomised trial including 274 patients ECF has been compared with the standard combination of 5-fluorouracil, adriamycin and methotrexate (FAMTX) in patients with previously untreated gastric cancer. Overall response rate, failure-free and overall survival were significantly improved with ECE, ECF also demonstrated improved quality of life and cost effectiveness when compared to the FAMTX regimen. ECF should now be regarded as the standard treatment for advanced oesophago-gastric cancer against which new therapies should be compared. In addition the Medical Research Council are conducting a trial randomising patients between surgery alone and perioperative chemotherapy using the ECF regimen in operable gastric cancer. Pathology & Oncology Research, Vol 4, Nr 2, 87-95, 1998

Key words: oesophagus; gastric; chemotherapy; chemoradiation

Received: Apr 6, 1998; accepted: Apr 29, 1998
Correspondence: David CUNNINGHAM, Department of Medicine and the Gastrointestinal Unit, The Royal Marsden Hospital, Downs Road Sutton SM2 5PT, UK; Tel: (0)1816426011, Fax: (0)1816439414

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