Less can sometimes be more: minimally invasive esophagectomy for esophageal cancer
Editorial

Less can sometimes be more: minimally invasive esophagectomy for esophageal cancer

Dimitrios Moris1, Dimitrios Giannis2, Marcelo Cerullo1, Diamantis I. Tsilimigras3, Robin Schmitz1

1Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA; 2Center for Health Innovations and Outcomes Research, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Northwell Health, NY, USA; 3Department of Surgery, Ohio State University, Columbus. OH, USA

Correspondence to: Dimitrios Moris, MD, MSc, PhD. Duke University Medical Center, 2301 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC, USA. Email: dimmoris@yahoo.com.

Received: 07 February 2020; Accepted: 18 February 2020; Published: 25 March 2020.

doi: 10.21037/dmr.2020.02.04


Esophageal cancer (EC) remains one of the most lethal cancers affecting more than 45k people worldwide and shows trend of increasing incidence the last few decades (1,2). Despite advances in the oncological sphere, both surgical and medical (3,4), EC prognosis remains dismal with 5-year survival rates hardly reaching 20% (5). When resectable, surgery remains the treatment of choice for EC (6).

Minimally invasive esophagectomy (MIE) is gradually gaining popularity since currently almost half of the esophagectomies worldwide are performed laparoscopically or robotically. The effectiveness of MIE is supported by a single randomized control trial and multiple single series cohorts (7). These emerging data clearly support the superiority of MIE or hybrid approaches (HE) over open esophagectomy (OE) in patients with EC. More specifically, data from the Japanese National Clinical Database demonstrated that MIE was non-inferior (superior or equivalent) to OE in terms of postoperative morbidity and surgery-related mortality (8,9). More importantly, hospital case volume was an independent risk factor of mortality, especially in programs with low annual volume (8).

Recently, Mariette et al. released the data from a multi-institutional trial comparing HE with OE for patients with EC. The striking finding of the trial was that HE was correlated with lower perioperative major morbidity compared to OE, as well as it was non inferior in terms of long-term survival and oncologic outcomes (10). As a caveat of the trial, we found that almost 50% of the patients enrolled in the trial (102 of 207) were treated at a single center with high volume and well-stablished experience on MIE (11). It was also unclear whether the under-representation of lower volume centers, including whether an individual surgeon’s experience and technique was factored into consideration.

It is now well-presented in the literature that treating EC in high volume, specialist centers is related with significantly better outcomes compared with lower-volume centers (12). This is of paramount clinical importance since most likely low volume and experience centers most preferably treat their EC patient with OE. That should be taken into consideration when evaluating results from studies including patients from centers with variable expertise and case volume.

These results clearly bring the concept of EC centralization of care in the center of the scientific discussion (13). Even if generating and applying a policy of directing EC patients to specialized centers is complex, due to many issues related to specialty certification, practice habits, access to healthcare, and cost of care delivery, the successful examples from Europe clearly show the way to go in this matter (14).

Minimally invasive surgery has established its position in the therapeutic armamentarium of patients with EC. As in every case of surgical innovation, individual and institutional expertise should be taken into consideration from the level of study design and interpretation of published results to application in clinical practice that will include learning curve, case volume, preoperative planning, surgical expertise and postoperative management including management of complications and resources.


Acknowledgments

None.


Footnote

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Statement: The authors are accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.


References

  1. Papaconstantinou D, Tsilimigras DI, Moris D, et al. Synchronous resection of esophageal cancer and other organ malignancies: A systematic review. World J Gastroenterol 2019;25:3438-49. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  2. Peery AF, Crockett SD, Murphy CC, et al. Burden and Cost of Gastrointestinal, Liver, and Pancreatic Diseases in the United States: Update 2018. Gastroenterology 2019;156:254-72.e11. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  3. Moaven O, Wang TN. Combined Modality Therapy for Management of Esophageal Cancer: Current Approach Based on Experiences from East and West. Surg Clin North Am 2019;99:479-99. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  4. Schizas D, Mastoraki A, Naar L, et al. Concept of histone deacetylases in cancer: Reflections on esophageal carcinogenesis and treatment. World J Gastroenterol 2018;24:4635-42. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  5. Hagens ERC, Feenstra ML, Eshuis WJ, et al. Conditional survival after neodjuvant chemotherapy and surgery for oesophageal cancer. Br J Surg 2020. [Epub ahead of print]. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  6. Markar SR, Lagergren J. Surgical and Surgeon-Related Factors Related to Long-Term Survival in Esophageal Cancer: A Review. Ann Surg Oncol 2020;27:718-23. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  7. Carroll PA, Jacob N, Yeung JC, et al. Using Benchmarking Standards to Evaluate Transition to Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy. Ann Thorac Surg 2020;109:383-8. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  8. Yoshida N, Yamamoto H, Baba H, et al. Can Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy Replace Open Esophagectomy for Esophageal Cancer? Latest Analysis of 24,233 Esophagectomies From the Japanese National Clinical Database. Ann Surg 2019. [Epub ahead of print]. [Crossref]
  9. Moris D, Speicher PJ, D'Amico TA. Comment on "Can Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy Replace Open Esophagectomy for Esophageal Cancer? Latest Analysis of 24,233 Esophagectomies From the Japanese National Clinical Database". Ann Surg 2019;270:e110. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  10. Mariette C, Markar SR, Dabakuyo-Yonli TS, et al. Hybrid Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy for Esophageal Cancer. N Engl J Med 2019;380:152-62. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  11. Pasquer A, Renaud F, Hec F, et al. Is Centralization Needed for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer Patients With Low Operative Risk?: A Nationwide Study. Ann Surg 2016;264:823-30. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  12. Speicher PJ, Englum BR, Ganapathi AM, et al. Traveling to a High-volume Center is Associated With Improved Survival for Patients With Esophageal Cancer. Ann Surg 2017;265:743-9. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  13. Chang AC. Centralizing Esophagectomy to Improve Outcomes and Enhance Clinical Research: Invited Expert Review. Ann Thorac Surg 2018;106:916-23. [Crossref] [PubMed]
  14. Munasinghe A, Markar SR, Mamidanna R, et al. Is It Time to Centralize High-risk Cancer Care in the United States? Comparison of Outcomes of Esophagectomy Between England and the United States. Ann Surg 2015;262:79-85. [Crossref] [PubMed]
doi: 10.21037/dmr.2020.02.04
Cite this article as: Moris D, Giannis D, Cerullo M, Tsilimigras DI, Schmitz R. Less can sometimes be more: minimally invasive esophagectomy for esophageal cancer. Dig Med Res 2020;3:7.