Esophageal cancer is one of the rarer forms of this disease, but one of the most difficult to treat. Known to affect just under 17,000 Americans annually, this disease claims an estimated 15,600 lives each year. Due to its location in the body and the potential to do harm to vital nearby organs, esophageal cancer continues to be a pressing concern for clinicians who find they must treat this disease in patients. In many cases, chemoradiation is recommended as an initial step to shrink tumors and pave the way for a greater chance of success if, and when, surgery is indicated.
Making sure chemo is working as it should has long been a concern in esophageal cancer. The use of positron emission tomography, or PET scans for short, may help doctors more readily determine the effectiveness of a course of treatment while giving them the time necessary to change actions if results indicate a need to do so. the use of this test as a monitor during treatments, in fact, has been shown to be very beneficial for enabling doctors to tailor their actions based on a patient’s specific tumor response.
A recent clinical study that involved the use of PET scanning to gauge the effectiveness of chemotherapy produced rather positive results. Researchers found it was very helpful to provide patients with esophageal cancer a short course of induction chemotherapy that was then followed by a PET assessment. The PET was performed to determine if the chemo was having a positive impact or not. If it wasn’t, patients were switched to an alternative form of chemotherapy while undergoing preoperative chemoradiation.
In using the PET scan to gauge early response, doctors found that roughly 90 out of a group of nearly 260 patients were not responding well to their initial treatment. These patients were switched to a different course of action. The outcomes for those who switched were encouraging with just under 20 percent enjoying a pathologic complete response.
By enabling doctors to see how tumors respond to treatment in its earliest phases, PET scans hold the potential to enable more targeted treatment on a case-by-case basis, the researchers concluded. While esophageal cancer remains quite difficult to treat, this added insight could provide great value to doctors and patients alike.