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Characterization of residual tumours at the primary site in patients with a near pathological complete response after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy for oesophageal cancer. BJS 2016; 103: 1874-1879.

Published: 13th September 2016

Authors: Y.‐K. Chao, Y. Chang, C.‐J. Yeh, H.‐K. Chang, C.‐K. Tseng, W.‐Y. Chuang et al.


A ‘surgery as needed’ strategy has been proposed for patients with oesophageal cancer who truly achieve a pathological complete response (pCR) following neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT). However, the ability to detect residual disease remains problematic. This study investigated the anatomical locations and pathological characteristics of residual cancer in patients with oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) who achieved a near pCR following nCRT.


Patients with oesophageal SCC who achieved a near pCR after nCRT were eligible. Near pCR was defined as residual cancer in the resection specimen representing less than 10 per cent of the apparent original tumour area.


Detailed histopathological reassessment of 76 consecutive patients (mean age 54·4 years) with a near pCR was undertaken. Some 32 patients (42 per cent) with a near pCR had no detectable mucosal lesions. Residual tumour was identified most frequently in the submucosal layer (54, 71 per cent), followed by the mucosa (44, 58 per cent), muscle layer (36, 47 per cent) and adventitia (22, 29 per cent) (P < 0·001). Among patients without ypT1a disease, increasing depth of tumour invasion correlated negatively with the likelihood of mucosal involvement. Of patients with ypT3 disease, 16 of 22 had no detectable cancer located in the mucosa, compared with six of 29 with ypT1b disease (P < 0·001).


Better tools for predicting pCR are required before considering a ‘surgery as needed’ approach in the management of oesophageal cancer.

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