While cancer is a disease of the elderly, these patients are under-represented in randomized trials. Esophageal cancer-management in the elderly is challenging because of the morbidity and mortality associated with surgery. We examined a strategy of neo-adjuvant chemo-radiotherapy (naCRT), followed by surgery or surveillance, in selected patients with cancer aged 70 and older. A prospectively-accrued database identified 56 consecutive patients over a 90-month period, who were aged 70years and over, presented with esophageal carcinoma and were treated with neo-adjuvant CRT (naCRT)±surgery. Of 129 eligible patients, 66 (51%) received palliative measures, while 63 (49%) had curative intervention, namely 7 had surgery and 56 had naCRT±surgery. Of these 56 patients, 33 (59%) had adenocarcinoma (AC) and 23 (41%) had squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Twenty-five (45%) had a complete clinical response (cCR), of which 6 had immediate resection; 4 (67%) had a complete pathological response (pCR); 19 patients with a cCR declined or were unfit for surgery and underwent surveillance; of these, 3 had interval esophagectomy; 16 were not offered or declined resection. Eight (50%) have survived ≥3years. Mean overall survival was 28months for the entire cohort; 47months for cCRs; 61months for patients undergoing primary resection, 46months for cCRs who did not undergo resection and 29months for those undergoing interval resection for recurrent disease. In cCRs, surgery did not provide a survival advantage (p=0.861). cCR yields an overall 3-year survival of 50% without operation. As 45% of patients have a cCR to naCRT, obligatory resection in high-risk cCR patients makes little sense. With the option for salvage esophagectomy in re-emergent disease, this selective strategy is an attractive alternative for elderly patients with cancer.
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