Short-Course External Beam Radiotherapy Versus Brachytherapy for Palliation of Dysphagia in Esophageal Cancer: A Matched Comparison of Two Prospective Trials

Paul M. Jeene*, Bram D. Vermeulen, Tom Rozema, Petra M. Braam, Irene Lips, Karin Muller, Daphne van Kampen, Marjolein Y. V. Homs, Vera Oppedijk, Maaike Berbee, Peter S. N. van Rossum, Sherif el Sharouni, Peter D. Siersema, Maarten C. C. M. Hulshof, POLDER Study Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Short-course external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) and intraluminal brachytherapy are both accepted treatments for the palliation of dysphagia in patients with incurable esophageal cancer. We compared the effects of both treatments from two prospective studies.

Methods: We performed a multicenter prospective cohort study of patients with metastasized or otherwise incurable esophageal cancer requiring palliation of dysphagia from September 2016 to March 2019. Patients were treated with EBRT in five fractions of 4 Gy. Data were compared with all patients treated with a single brachytherapy dose of 12 Gy in the SIREC (Stent or Intraluminal Radiotherapy for inoperable Esophageal Cancer) trial, both between the original cohorts and between 1:1 propensity score-matched cohorts. The primary end point was an improvement of dysphagia at 3 months without reintervention. The secondary end points included toxicity and time-to-effect.

Results: A total of 115 patients treated with EBRT and 93 patients who underwent brachytherapy were eligible for analysis. In the original cohorts, dysphagia improved after EBRT in 79% of patients compared with 64% after brachytherapy (p = 0.058). Propensity score matching resulted in 69 patients in each cohort well-balanced at baseline. Improvement of dysphagia was observed in 83% after EBRT versus 64% after brachytherapy (p = 0.048). In responding patients, improvement of dysphagia at 2 weeks was observed in 67% after EBRT compared with 35% after brachytherapy, and the maximum effect was reached after 4 weeks in 55% and 33%, respectively. Severe toxicity occurred in 3% of patients after EBRT compared with 13% after brachytherapy.

Conclusions: Short-course EBRT appears at least as effective as brachytherapy in the palliation of dysphagia in patients with esophageal cancer. (C) 2020 International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1361-1368
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Dysphagia
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Palliation
  • Brachytherapy
  • External beam radiotherapy


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