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Radiotherapy for tumors of the stomach and gastroesophageal junction – a review of its role in multimodal therapy

Daniel Buergy1*, Frank Lohr1, Tobias Baack1, Kerstin Siebenlist1, Stefan Haneder2, Henrik Michaely2, Frederik Wenz1 and Judit Boda-Heggemann1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Universitätsmedizin Mannheim, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany

2 Institute of Clinical Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, University Medical Center Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:192  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-192

Published: 16 November 2012


There is broad consensus on surgical resection being the backbone of curative therapy of gastric- and gastroesophageal junction carcinoma. Nevertheless, details on therapeutic approaches in addition to surgery, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or radiochemotherapy are discussed controversially; especially whether external beam radiotherapy should be applied in addition to chemotherapy and surgery is debated in both entities and differs widely between regions and centers. Early landmark trials such as the Intergroup-0116 and the MAGIC trial must be interpreted in the context of potentially insufficient lymph node resection. Despite shortcomings of both trials, benefits on overall survival by radiochemotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy were confirmed in populations of D2-resected gastric cancer patients by Asian trials.

Recent results on junctional carcinoma patients strongly suggest a survival benefit of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy in curatively resectable patients. An effect of chemotherapy in the perioperative setting as given in the MAGIC study has been confirmed by the ACCORD07 trial for junctional carcinomas; however both the studies by Stahl et al. and the excellent outcome in the CROSS trial as compared to all other therapeutic approaches indicate a superiority of neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy as compared to perioperative chemotherapy in junctional carcinoma patients. Surgery alone without neoadjuvant or perioperative therapy is considered suboptimal in patients with locally advanced disease.

In gastric carcinoma patients, perioperative chemotherapy has not been compared to adjuvant radiochemotherapy in a randomized setting. Nevertheless, the results of the recently published ARTIST trial and the Chinese data by Zhu and coworkers, indicate a superiority of adjuvant radiochemotherapy as compared to adjuvant chemotherapy in terms of disease free survival in Asian patients with advanced gastric carcinoma. The ongoing CRITICS trial is supposed to provide reliable conclusions about which therapy should be preferred in Western patients with gastric carcinoma. If radiotherapy is performed, modern approaches such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy and image guidance should be applied, as these methods reduce dose to organs at risk and provide a more homogenous coverage of planning target volumes.

Stomach; Gastric cancer; Gastroesophageal junction; Radiotherapy; Adjuvant therapy; Neoadjuvant; Radiochemotherapy