The single most distressing symptom for patients with advanced esophageal cancer is dysphagia. Amongst the more effective treatments for relief of dysphagia is insertion of a self-expanding metal stent (SEMS). It is possible that the addition of a palliative dose of external beam radiotherapy may prolong the relief of dysphagia and provide additional survival benefit. The ROCS trial will assess the effect of adding palliative radiotherapy after esophageal stent insertion.
The study is a randomized multicenter phase III trial, with an internal pilot phase, comparing stent alone versus stent plus palliative radiotherapy in patients with incurable esophageal cancer. Eligible participants are those with advanced esophageal cancer who are in need of stent insertion for primary management of dysphagia. Radiotherapy will be administered as 20 Gray (Gy) in five fractions over one week or 30 Gy in 10 fractions over two weeks, within four weeks of stent insertion. The internal pilot will assess rates and methods of recruitment; pre-agreed criteria will determine progression to the main trial. In total, 496 patients will be randomized in a 1:1 ratio with follow up until death. The primary outcome is time to progression of patient-reported dysphagia. Secondary outcomes include survival, toxicity, health resource utilization, and quality of life. An embedded qualitative study will explore the feasibility of patient recruitment by examining patients’ motivations for involvement and their experiences of consent and recruitment, including reasons for not consenting. It will also explore patients’ experiences of each trial arm.
The ROCS study will be a challenging trial studying palliation in patients with a poor prognosis. The internal pilot design will optimize methods for recruitment and data collection to ensure that the main trial is completed on time. As a pragmatic trial, study strengths include collection of all follow-up data in the usual place of care, and a focus on patient-reported, rather than disease-orientated, outcomes. Exploration of patient experience and health economic analyses will be integral to the assessment of benefit for patients and the NHS.
- Esophageal cancer
- Patient experience