Background. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for advanced esophageal cancer is beneficial for responders, whereas it may provide no clinical benefits or even prove harmful in non-responders. Methods. This study retrospectively compared the pathological findings and prognosis of 60 patients with UICC non-T4 stage III and IV, who received chemotherapy followed by surgery, and 96 patients with non-T4 stage III and IV cancer, who underwent surgery alone. The treatment regimen of cisplatin (70 mg/m2/day on day 1), adriamycin (30 mg/m2/day on day 1), and 5-fluorouracil (750 mg/m2/day on days 1-7) was administered for two cycles. Responders represented patients with histological effect of grade 1b-3 following therapy; non-responders represented those with grade 0-1a histological effect. Results. Survival was not significantly different between the neoadjuvant chemotherapy group and the surgery-alone group. Responders showed a tendency of earlier postoperative pStages than preoperative cStages (P = 0.08), better survival (P = 0.10), significantly fewer metastatic nodes, and significantly less extensive lymphatic invasion than the surgery-alone group. However, non-responders showed no significant differences in the degree of downstaging, number of metastatic nodes, extent of lymphatic and venous invasion, and survival rate as compared with the surgery-alone group. Comparison of overall survival between the chemotherapy and surgery-alone groups after matching for pathological stage showed that the survival of pStage II patients of the chemotherapy group was significantly better than the pStage II patients of the surgery-alone group (P = 0.04), whereas that of pStage III and IV patients of the chemotherapy group was not significantly different from the same-stage patients of the surgery-alone group. Conclusions. These results suggest that chemotherapy improves prognosis of responders significantly more than those who show downstaged pathological stage. However, the chemotherapy does not give any clinical benefit for non-responders.
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