Treatment of esophageal cancer has become increasingly complex over the last three decades. Historically, both primary surgery and primary radiotherapy have been used to treat (locally advanced) esophageal cancer. In this review we will focus on the progress that has been made within the ‘non-surgical’ treatment paradigm. Several studies will be discussed that compare concurrent chemoradiotherapy to radiotherapy alone as a non-surgical therapy for potentially curable esophageal cancer. Two studies that compare definitive chemoradiotherapy to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy plus surgery will be reviewed. Lastly we will discuss newer developments, such as the addition of salvage surgery in selected patients with a locoregional failure after definitive chemoradiotherapy and possible new treatment strategies for further improvements in the future.