Recommendations for research
The guideline committee has made the following recommendations for research. The committee's full set of research recommendations is detailed in the full guideline.
Does the addition of surgery to chemoradiotherapy improve disease-free and overall survival in people with squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus?
The aetiology of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the oesophagus is changing. Patients with SCC are now fitter, with fewer comorbidities than in previous years. Standard radical treatment for SCC of the oesophagus is usually chemo-radiotherapy, which is associated with a median survival of between 12 and 18 months. Given a fitter patient population, surgery may be a therapeutic option but its effectiveness in addition to chemoradiotherapy is unknown and a randomised controlled study to investigate whether the combination improves disease-free and overall survival would provide useful information to guide future clinical practice.
What is the optimal treatment for T1bN0 adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus?
In patients with submucosal (T1b) N0 oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC), the associated risk of lymph node metastases is estimated to be between 4% for sub-mucosal 1 (sm1) and up to 16% for sm3 based on retrospective surgical data. The majority of patients with a submucosal T1bN0 OAC therefore currently have major surgical resection without detecting any cancer cells in the oesophagus or lymph nodes. Oesophagectomy is also a procedure associated with significant morbidity (up to 50%) and mortality (2 to 4%).
In comparison, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) and endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) are techniques that can remove the submucosa with less morbidity and mortality than surgery and, providing there is no lymph node involvement, can lead to a cure. However, compared to surgery nodal involvement can only be assessed by F-18 FDG PET-CT scanning and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), which may lead to under-treatment of some patients with T1b disease.
A study to assess which patients should have endoscopic therapy or surgery for T1bN0 OAC would be useful, as this would help prevent both under- and over-treatment of this group of people. This could be a randomised controlled trial comparing surgery and endoscopic treatment.
What is the optimal method of delivering nutritional support to adults after surgery with curative intent for oesophago-gastric cancer?
People who have surgery for oesophago-gastric cancer have a prolonged period without adequate oral intake after surgery. Oral, enteral and parenteral nutrition support strategies are used to support people during this time. Evidence suggests that providing some form of nutrition support improves surgical outcomes. However, which of these methods is the safest and most effective has not been determined and because of this, practice in this field varies nationally. A study to identify the best method of delivering safe and effective nutritional support interventions which aim to reduce post-operative complications in this population would help guide future clinical practice.
What is the effectiveness of long-term jejunostomy support compared to intensive dietary counselling and support along with symptom management for people having radical surgery for oesophago-gastric cancer?
People who have had surgery for oesophago-gastric cancer have nutritional difficulties as a result of problems eating, ongoing symptoms, and side-effects related to the surgery. It is well recognised that they have a poor quality of life. Most patients have adjuvant treatment, however their nutritional status may negatively impact on their ability to tolerate this, meaning treatment can be stopped early or not received. Jejunostomy feeding tubes are often used to provide nutrition support after discharge from hospital after surgery. Some small studies have shown a benefit in terms of weight preservation, but none have shown that this leads to better recovery, tolerance of treatment or quality of life. Practice in this area varies greatly, with some centres placing jejunostomy tubes and continuing enteral feeding after discharge, some placing the jejunostomy tubes and not using them routinely and others not placing jejunostomy tubes at all. Studies should aim to identify if jejunostomy placement leads to clinical benefit in adults who have had surgery for oesophago-gastric cancer.
Is the routine use of CT and tumour markers effective in detecting recurrent disease suitable for radical treatment in asymptomatic people who have had treatment for oesophago-gastric cancer with curative intent?
There is no clearly defined follow-up protocol for people with oesophago-gastric cancer treated radically. Detection of early recurrence potentially suitable for radical treatment offers the possibility of increased survival. However, the best methods of detecting recurrence are unclear and there is no evidence to show whether early detection leads to improved overall survival. The alternative is to wait until symptoms reoccur and then re-evaluate the further treatment options available. Studies examining the role of screening in this scenario would show whether routine follow-up in asymptomatic people was effective at detecting recurrence and improving overall survival.