Do We Need to Add Postoperative Radiotherapy in Patients Undergoing Trimodality Therapy for Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma with Positive Lymph Nodes Disease?

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Background: The role of adjuvant radiotherapy for positive lymph nodes (LN) in patients with esophageal cancer who received neoadjuvant concurrent chemoradiotherapy (CCRT) is not well established. This study is aimed at determining the impact of positive LN and the survival benefit of postoperative radiotherapy (PORT) after CCRT plus surgery on esophageal cancer patients. Methods: Seventy patients with positive LN after neoadjuvant CCRT followed by esophagectomy were enrolled in the study. Patients were grouped into surgery alone following neoadjuvant CCRT (n = 41) and surgery plus PORT following neoadjuvant CCRT (n = 29) groups. The preoperative radiation dose was 36-45 Gy (mean 40 Gy) and the postoperative radiation dose was 20 Gy in 10 fractions. Results: The 5-year survival rate and mean survival was 40% and 58.6 ± 53.9 months for patients with a pathologic complete response (pCR) compared with 8.3% and 22.7 ± 35.5 months, respectively, for non-pCR patients (p = 0.026). Local and distant recurrent patterns were similar for patients who did and did not receive PORT (p = 0.876). The mean survival did not differ significantly between the 2 groups (p = 0.889). Pathological complete response to CCRT was the only significant factor influencing survival (p = 0.026). Conclusions: Postoperative RT did not improve survival in patients with positive LN after CCRT followed by curative surgery for esophageal cancer.

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