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Our Research on Esophageal and Gastric Cancer

  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and our Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer remain as dedicated to discoveries in cancer research as to delivering compassionate, patient-centered care. Clinical trials are a crucial way that advancements in treatment are made, and allow physicians to research answers to questions that arise in the clinic. Our physicians lead and participate in revolutionary worldwide clinical trials to constantly improve the treatment of esophageal and gastric cancer.

    Learn about our recent breakthrough trials and their impactful findings below.

    Recent Breakthrough Trials

    CheckMate 577

    Until recently, the standard treatment for locally advanced esophageal and gastro-esophageal junction cancer was chemotherapy plus radiation therapy followed by surgery.

    However, a 2021 breakthrough study, CheckMate 577, proved that one year of immunotherapy (nivolumab) added after surgery doubles the disease-free survival for patients receiving this additional treatment.

    The Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer, under principal investigator James Cleary, MD, enrolled the largest number of patients to this study. Learn more about the results in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    CheckMate 648

    The CheckMate 648 study examined the efficacy and safety of combining nivolumab, a drug that binds to the protein PD-1 to help immune cells kill cancer cells, with the current standard treatment of chemotherapy. This treatment combination resulted in a 6.3-month improvement in survival and prevented progression of cancer at one year in 25% of patients, a 50% improvement over chemotherapy alone.

    This combination represents a new first line standard of care for patients with advanced esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Nivolumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Learn more about the results of the study in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal.

    Keynote 590

    Until recently, the standard treatment for patients with metastatic (inoperable) esophageal cancer was chemotherapy, most commonly the combination of fluorouracil, oxaliplatin and leucovorin (FOLFOX).

    Although effective in most patients, resistance eventually developed, and patients had to seek alternative treatment options.

    In a recent breakthrough trial, Keynote 590, conducted at our Center and other sites around the world, investigators demonstrated that the addition of an immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), significantly improved survival compared to standard chemotherapy alone.

    Peter Enzinger, MD, Director of our Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer, was one of the principal investigators of the trial. For more information, view the results of the study.

    Keynote 811

    The Keynote 811 study examined the addition of immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) to the current standard of care, trastuzumab and chemotherapy, and showed notable improvement in overall treatment response rates in patients. This global study enrolled a total of 434 participants, some of which were enrolled by Dana-Farber’s Center for Esophageal and Gastric Cancer. Participants were randomly assigned to receive pembrolizumab or a placebo in addition to standard therapy.

    The addition of pembrolizumab to the current standard of care provided a 74% overall response rate, meaning patients had a dramatic shrinkage in their cancer, a significant improvement from a response rate of 51% with the former standard treatment. Responses were also found to be more impressive and longer lasting than the standard treatment.

    Preliminary results of this study were posted in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Journal. Pembrolizumab has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

    Ongoing Esophageal and Gastric Cancer Clinical Trials at Dana-Farber

    At Dana-Farber, we have clinical trials for patients diagnosed with esophageal and gastric cancer. Our physicians will work with you to determine if there is a clinical trial that is right for you.

    You can view all open clinical trials and search by your cancer type.