Esophageal Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 12/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about esophageal cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

  • Chemoprevention. Researchers are looking at using aspirin and antacids to prevent esophageal adenocarcinoma in people with Barrett’s esophagus. Research is still ongoing, and people are encouraged to talk with their doctor before taking any medications or dietary supplements for this reason. Learn about the basics of chemoprevention.

  • PET scan. In addition to help find out the cancer’s stage (see Stages), PET scans may be used to find out how well treatment is working to shrink a tumor before surgery. Researchers are studying the use of PET scan to evaluate and possibly change treatment before surgery.

  • Chemotherapy advances. Doctors are studying combinations of different drugs, such as capecitabine (Xeloda), cisplatin (Platinol), docetaxel (Docefrez, Taxotere), fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil), irinotecan (Camptosar), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) and paclitaxel. And, research is ongoing to find new drugs that are effective for esophageal cancer.

  • Targeted therapy. Several types of targeted therapies are currently being studied for esophageal cancer.

    • In addition to trastuzumab, researchers are looking at newer drugs that target HER2 for advanced esophageal adenocarcinomas, as well as combining trastuzumab with radiation therapy.

    • Researchers are looking at drugs that block vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), particularly the use of ramucirumab combined with chemotherapy as the first treatment.

    • Recent studies looking a type of growth factor, called c-MET, did not show any benefit and is no longer a major area of research for esophageal cancer.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current esophageal cancer treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding esophageal cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.