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Combined stent insertion and single high-dose brachytherapy in patients with advanced esophageal cancer – results of a prospective safety study


Dr Henrik Bergquist, MD, PhD, Department of ENT/H&N Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, SE-41345 Gothenburg, Sweden. Email:


Previous randomized studies comparing the two commonly used palliative treatments for incurable esophageal cancer, i.e. stent insertion and intraluminal brachytherapy, have revealed the pros and cons of each therapy. While stent treatment offers a more prompt effect, brachytherapy results in more long-lasting relief of dysphagia and a better health-related quality of life (HRQL) in those living longer. This prospective pilot study aimed to explore the feasibility and safety of combining these two regimes and incorporating a single high dose of internal radiation. Patients with newly diagnosed, incurable cancer of the esophagus and dysphagia were eligible for inclusion, and stent insertion followed by a single dose (12 Gy) of brachytherapy was performed as a two-stage procedure. Clinical parameters including HRQL and adverse events were registered at inclusion, and 1, 2, 3, 6, and 12 months later. Twelve patients (nine males) with a median age of 73 years (range 54–85) were included. Stent insertion followed by a single dose of brachytherapy was successfully performed in all but one patient who was treated with stent only. Relief of dysphagia was achieved in the majority of cases (10/11, P < 0.05), but HRQL did not improve except for dysphagia-related items. Only minor adverse events, including chest pain, reflux, and restenosis, were reported. The median survival time after inclusion was 6.6 months. Our conclusion is that the combination of stent insertion and single high-dose brachytherapy seems to be a feasible and safe palliative regime in patients with advanced esophageal cancer. Randomized trials comparing the efficacy of this strategy to stent insertion or brachytherapy alone are warranted.