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OBJECTIVES: It is unknown whether restaging oesophageal cancer after neoadjuvant therapy with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) is more sensitive than contrast-enhanced CT for disease progression. We aimed to determine this and stratify risk. METHODS: This was a retrospective study of patients staged before neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) by (18)F-FDG PET-CT and restaged with CT or PET-CT in a single centre (2006-2014). RESULTS: Three hundred and eighty-three patients were restaged (103 CT, 280 PET-CT). Incurable disease was detected by CT in 3 (2.91 %) and PET-CT in 17 (6.07 %). Despite restaging unsuspected incurable disease was encountered at surgery in 34/336 patients (10.1 %). PET-CT was more sensitive than CT (p = 0.005, McNemar's test). A new classification of FDG-avid nodal stage (mN) before NAC (plus tumour FDG-avid length) predicted subsequent progression, independent of conventional nodal stage. The presence of FDG-avid nodes after NAC and an impassable tumour stratified risk of incurable disease at surgery into high (75.0 %; both risk factors), medium (22.4 %; either), and low risk (3.87 %; neither) groups (p < 0.001). Decision theory supported restaging PET-CT. CONCLUSIONS: PET-CT is more sensitive than CT for detecting interval progression; however, it is insufficient in at least higher risk patients. mN stage and response (mNR) plus primary tumour characteristics can stratify this risk simply. KEY POINTS: • Restaging (18) F-FDG-PET-CT after neoadjuvant chemotherapy identifies metastases in 6 % of patients • Restaging (18) F-FDG-PET-CT is more sensitive than CT for detecting interval progression • Despite this, at surgery 10 % of patients had unsuspected incurable disease • New concepts (FDG-avid nodal stage and response) plus tumour impassability stratify risk • Higher risk (if not all) patients may benefit from additional restaging modalities.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Radiol

Publication Date





3519 - 3533


Cancer staging, Computed tomography, Esophageal cancer, Esophagectomy, Positron-emission tomography, Adult, Aged, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Decision Theory, Disease Progression, Esophageal Neoplasms, Esophagectomy, Female, Fluorodeoxyglucose F18, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoadjuvant Therapy, Neoplasm Metastasis, Neoplasm Staging, Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography, Prognosis, Radiopharmaceuticals, Retrospective Studies, Risk Assessment, Sensitivity and Specificity, Tomography, X-Ray Computed