The predominant histological types of esophageal cancer are adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Since these two histological types present as different diseases in terms of their epidemiology, pathologenesis, and tumor biology, separate therapeutic approaches should be developed against each type. While surgical resection remains the dominant therapeutic intervention for patients with operable esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), their high rates of tumor recurrence have prompted investigation of multimodality therapies that combine surgery with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and chemoradiotherapy. In Japan, preoperative chemotherapy with cisplatin (CDDP) plus 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) followed by radical esophagectomy has been accepted as the standard therapeutic approach for resactable clinical Stage II/III ESCC. Similarly, the CDDP and 5-FU regimen has been accepted as the first-line treatment for metastatic and unresectable ESCCs in Japan. Thus, in Japan chemotherapy is an indispensable component of therapy for both resectable and unresectable ESCCs. This review discusses the current knowledge, rationale, and available data regarding chemotherapy for resectable and unresectable ESCCs.
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