Extensive surgery after high-dose preoperative chemoradiotherapy for locally advanced recurrent rectal cancer

C Rödel, G G Grabenbauer, K E Matzel, C Schick, R Fietkau, T Papadopoulos, P Martus, W Hohenberger, R Sauer
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 2000, 43 (3): 312-9

PURPOSE: This was a pilot study of high-dose preoperative concurrent radiation and chemotherapy before extensive surgery in patients with locally advanced recurrent rectal cancer. Here we report on curative resectability, acute toxicities during chemoradiotherapy, surgical complications, local control, and three-year survival rates achieved with this aggressive multimodal regimen.

METHODS: Between 1994 and 1997, 35 previously nonirradiated patients with pelvic recurrence of rectal cancer were entered in the study. All patients presented with tumor contiguous or adherent to adjacent pelvic organs and were not deemed amenable to primary curative surgery. A total radiation dose of 50.4 Gy with a small-volume boost of 5.4 to 9 Gy was delivered in conventional fractionation (single dose, 1.8 Gy). 5-Fluorouracil was scheduled as a continuous infusion of 1,000 mg/m2/day on Days 1 to 5 and 29 to 33. Six weeks after completion of chemoradiotherapy, patients were reassessed for resectability, and radical surgery was attempted whenever feasible.

RESULTS: After preoperative chemoradiotherapy 28 of 35 patients (80 percent) underwent resection with curative intent. In 16 of 35 patients (57 percent) extended resection of adjacent organs was performed. Resections with negative margins were achieved in 17 patients (61 percent); 9 patients had microscopic, and 2 patients had gross residual disease. There was no postoperative mortality. Fourteen patients (44 percent) experienced postoperative complications. Toxicity from chemoradiotherapy occurred mainly as diarrhea (National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria Grade 3; 23 percent), dermatitis (Grade 3; 11 percent), and leucopenia (Grade 3; 11 percent). One patient died of tumortoxic multiple organ failure during chemoradiotherapy. With a median follow-up of 27 months, local re-recurrence after curative resection was observed in only three patients (18 percent); six patients developed distant metastases. Three-year actuarial survival rate was significantly improved after complete resection (82 percent) as compared with noncurative surgery (38 percent; P = 0.03).

CONCLUSION: A combination of high-dose preoperative chemoradiotherapy followed by extended surgery can achieve clear resection margins in more than 60 percent of patients with recurrent rectal tumor not amenable to primary surgery. An encouraging trend evolved for this multimodal treatment to improve long-term local control and survival rate.

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