Introduction: Metastatic or unresectable locally advanced oesophageal cancer remains a disease with high mortality. More recently, pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy has been indicated as the first-line treatment for those patients, but the predictive factors for treatment efficacy remain controversial. This study investigated the clinical utility of early tumour shrinkage (ETS) and depth of response (DpR) in metastatic or unresectable oesophageal cancer treated with pembrolizumab plus CF therapy. Methods: ETS and DpR, defined as the percent decreases at the second evaluation and the percentage of the maximal tumour shrinkage during treatment, were measured in 53 eligible patients. The ETS and DpR cut-off values were 20% and 30%, respectively, based on survival outcomes. Results: Twenty-seven patients (51%) were treatment naïve, while 26 (49%) had received any treatment before initiating pembrolizumab plus CF therapy. The median progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival for ETS ≥20% and <20% were 12.7 and 5.5 months and 14.4 and 8.2 months and 12.7 and 4.9 months and 14.4 and 8.0 months for DpR ≥30% and <30%, respectively. ETS <20% showed early tumour growth, whereas ETS ≥20% had a good response rate with sufficient longer response duration. In addition, an ETS cut-off of 20% predicted the best overall response and was not associated with prior treatment. In multivariable analysis, ETS ≥20% and DpR ≥30% were independent factors of longer PFS. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an ETS is a promising on-treatment marker for early prediction of further sensitivity to pembrolizumab plus CF therapy.

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