Japan study: Pre-surgery use of 3 drugs raises esophageal cancer survival rate

A group of researchers in Japan says it has found that the use of three anticancer drugs before surgery helps raise the survival rate for esophageal cancer patients.

The group at the National Cancer Center Japan has published its findings in the Lancet medical journal.

The researchers say the triplet chemotherapy has prompted a review of the treatment for esophageal cancer.

The standard treatment in Japan has been to administer two anticancer drugs as a first step to shrink a tumor in the esophagus before removing it by surgery.

In the United States and Europe, doctors often combine two-drug treatment with radiotherapy.

The cancer center group added one more drug, docetaxel, to the pre-surgery treatment. It has carried out clinical trials involving about 600 patients since 2012.

The group says the three-year overall survival rate was 72.1 percent when three drugs were used, compared with 62.6 percent for two drugs.

The group says the survival rate for the treatment with two drugs plus radiotherapy was 68.3 percent, but the ratio of deaths from diseases other than cancer, such as pneumonia and heart illnesses, was higher with this method.

The researchers say the use of three drugs before surgery has become a standard treatment in Japan since 2022. That's after the group released its interim report.

Medical oncologist Kato Ken of the National Cancer Center Hospital says the group's clinical trials have prompted a review of the treatment for esophageal cancer around the world.

Kato says verification efforts are underway in the US and European countries as well, possibly leading to a change in the standard treatment.