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Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

High dose rate brachytherapy before external beam irradiation in inoperable oesophageal cancer


To induce fast relief of dysphagia in patients with oesophageal cancer high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy was applied before external radiotherapy in a prospective study. Seventy-four patients with inoperable oesophageal cancer (36 squamous cell, 38 adenocarcinoma) were treated with a combination of 10 Gy HDR brachytherapy, followed by 40 Gy in 4 weeks external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), starting 2 weeks later. Tumour response, as measured by endoscopy and/or barium swallow, revealed complete remission in 21 and partial response in 38 patients (overall response rate 80%). Improvement of dysphagia was induced by brachytherapy within a few days in 39%, and achieved at the end of treatment in 70% of patients. Further weight loss was prevented in 39 of the 59 patients who presented with weight loss. Pain at presentation improved in 12 out of 25 patients. Median survival was 9 months. No differences in either response rate or survival were found in squamous cell or adenocarcinoma. Side-effects were either acute with minimal discomfort in 32 (42%) or late with painful ulceration in five patients (7%), occurring after a median of 4 months. A fistula developed in six patients, all with concurrent tumour. In conclusion, brachytherapy before EBRT was a safe and effective procedure to induce rapid relief of dysphagia, especially when combined with EBRT.

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Taal, B., Aleman, B., Koning, C. et al. High dose rate brachytherapy before external beam irradiation in inoperable oesophageal cancer. Br J Cancer 74, 1452–1457 (1996).

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