Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author's final published version in JAMA Network Open, Volume 6, Issue 4, 2023, Article number e238504.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2023 Hallemeier CL et al. JAMA Network Open.


IMPORTANCE: For many types of epithelial malignant neoplasms that are treated with definitive radiotherapy (RT), treatment prolongation and interruptions have an adverse effect on outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: To analyze the association between RT duration and outcomes in patients with esophageal cancer who were treated with definitive chemoradiotherapy (CRT).

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This study was an unplanned, post hoc secondary analysis of 3 prospective, multi-institutional phase 3 randomized clinical trials (Radiation Therapy Oncology Group [RTOG] 8501, RTOG 9405, and RTOG 0436) of the National Cancer Institute-sponsored NRG Oncology (formerly the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, RTOG, and Gynecologic Oncology Group). Enrolled patients with nonmetastatic esophageal cancer underwent definitive CRT in the trials between 1986 and 2013, with follow-up occurring through 2014. Data analyses were conducted between March 2022 to February 2023.

EXPOSURES: Treatment groups in the trials used standard-dose RT (50 Gy) and concurrent chemotherapy.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: The outcomes were local-regional failure (LRF), distant failure, disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS). Multivariable models were used to examine the associations between these outcomes and both RT duration and interruptions. Radiotherapy duration was analyzed as a dichotomized variable using an X-Tile software to choose a cut point and its median value as a cut point, as well as a continuous variable.

RESULTS: The analysis included 509 patients (median [IQR] age, 64 [57-70] years; 418 males [82%]; and 376 White individuals [74%]). The median (IQR) follow-up was 4.01 (2.93-4.92) years for surviving patients. The median cut point of RT duration was 39 days or less in 271 patients (53%) vs more than 39 days in 238 patients (47%), and the X-Tile software cut point was 45 days or less in 446 patients (88%) vs more than 45 days in 63 patients (12%). Radiotherapy interruptions occurred in 207 patients (41%). Female (vs male) sex and other (vs White) race and ethnicity were associated with longer RT duration and RT interruptions. In the multivariable models, RT duration longer than 45 days was associated with inferior DFS (hazard ratio [HR], 1.34; 95% CI, 1.01-1.77; P = .04). The HR for OS was 1.33, but the results were not statistically significant (95% CI, 0.99-1.77; P = .05). Radiotherapy duration longer than 39 days (vs ≤39 days) was associated with a higher risk of LRF (HR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.06-1.65; P = .01). As a continuous variable, RT duration (per 1 week increase) was associated with DFS failure (HR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.01-1.28; P = .03). The HR for LRF 1.13, but the result was not statistically significant (95% CI, 0.99-1.28; P = .07).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Results of this study indicated that in patients with esophageal cancer receiving definitive CRT, prolonged RT duration was associated with inferior outcomes; female patients and those with other (vs White) race and ethnicity were more likely to have longer RT duration and experience RT interruptions. Radiotherapy interruptions should be minimized to optimize outcomes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Supplementary Material_1.pdf (385 kB)
RTOG 0436 Protocol

Supplementary Material_2.pdf (5054 kB)
RTOG 8501 Protocol

Supplementary Material_3.pdf (380 kB)
RTOG 9405 Protocol

Supplementary Material_4.pdf (1541 kB)

Supplementary Material_5.pdf (14 kB)
Data Sharing Statement