In esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) patients who are treated with chemoradiotherapy (CRT), identification of the presence or absence of residual or recurrent carcinoma is usually pivotal in their clinical management. In addition, the extent of carcinoma invasion into the esophageal wall could determine the clinical outcome of these patients following CRT. Therefore, in this study, we evaluated the response to CRT both macroscopically and histologically in a consecutive series of 42 ESCC patients receiving neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy following curative esophageal resection at Tohoku University Hospital between August 2011 and December 2012. The histological grading of tumor regression was as follows: grade 3, markedly effective (no viable residual tumor cells); grade 2, moderately effective (residual tumor cells in less than one-third of the tumor); grade 1, slightly effective (1b, residual tumor cells in one-third to two-thirds of the tumor; 1a, residual tumor cells in more than two-thirds of the tumor); and grade 0, ineffective. In this study, we selected grade 2 and 1b cases because they might show a complete response with definitive CRT. We evaluated the presence of any residual in situ lesions and tumor depth in detail. The grading of tumor regression in primary sites was as follows: grade 3 (7 cases), grade 2 (16 cases), grade 1b (13 cases), and grade 1a (6 cases). The concordance rate between macroscopic and histopathological evaluation on the depth of the tumor was 40% (17/42). Among 29 cases (grade 2 and grade 1b), intraepithelial lesions were not detected in 17 cases, and tumor nests were not detected in the lamina propria mucosae in 9 cases. The results of this study highlight the difficulties of detecting residual carcinoma cells using conventional endoscopic biopsy in patients who have received CRT. Therefore, when residual cancer is clinically suspected in patients who have received CRT, the biopsy specimen should be obtained from the deep layer of the esophagus whenever possible. Additionally, close follow-up is required using positron emission tomography/computed tomography, endoscopy, and other radiological evaluations.
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