On Sunday 31 May 2015, researchers presented the results of the OE05 trial at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago. OE05 looked at whether increasing the amount chemotherapy patients with oesophageal cancer, or cancers at the junction of the oesophagus and stomach, are given before they have surgery would improve survival. The results show some evidence that increasing chemotherapy could be beneficial, but do not show an improvement in overall survival.
Cancer of the oesophagus (the gullet, or tube leading from the throat to the stomach) causes over 7,000 deaths in the UK each year and is becomingly increasingly common. Previous research has shown that oesophageal cancer patients who are treated with a combination of chemotherapy drugs before surgery have a better chance of survival than those who just have surgery. OE05 was set up to test whether giving patients more chemotherapy before surgery would improve survival chances even further.
897 patients from 72 hospitals around the UK took part in the trial. All of these patients had been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus or junction of the stomach and oesophagus that could be removed by surgery. Patients were randomly allocated to one of two treatment groups. One group received the standard treatment (cisplatin, 5-Fluorouracil and surgery) and the other received a newer chemotherapy regimen (eprubicin, cisplatin, capecitabine, given for a longer period of time before surgery).
Survival rates in both treatment groups were higher than researchers expected indicating improved outcomes for patients with oesophageal cancer in the UK. The results also show some evidence that the newer chemotherapy regimen reduced the amount of tumour that was found at operation and if the tumour did come back it took longer to do so. However, this did not translate into improved overall survival for the group receiving the newer treatment in this study.
As the newer chemotherapy treatment was given for twice as long as the standard treatment there were more side effects from the treatment but side effects from the surgery were the same in both groups.
The OE05 trial was funded by Cancer Research UK, and run by the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL.