Meta-analysis of the effect of extending the interval after long-course chemoradiotherapy before surgery in locally advanced rectal cancer

É J Ryan, D P O'Sullivan, M E Kelly, A Z Syed, P C Neary, P R O'Connell, D O Kavanagh, D C Winter, J M O'Riordan
British Journal of Surgery 2019, 106 (10): 1298-1310

BACKGROUND: The current standard of care in locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) is neoadjuvant long-course chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) followed by total mesorectal excision (TME). Surgery is conventionally performed approximately 6-8 weeks after nCRT. This study aimed to determine the effect on outcomes of extending this interval.

METHODS: A systematic search was performed for studies reporting oncological results that compared the classical interval (less than 8 weeks) from the end of nCRT to TME with a minimum 8-week interval in patients with LARC. The primary endpoint was the rate of pathological complete response (pCR). Secondary endpoints were recurrence-free survival, local recurrence and distant metastasis rates, R0 resection rates, completeness of TME, margin positivity, sphincter preservation, stoma formation, anastomotic leak and other complications. A meta-analysis was performed using the Mantel-Haenszel method.

RESULTS: Twenty-six publications, including four RCTs, with 25 445 patients were identified. A minimum 8-week interval was associated with increased odds of pCR (odds ratio (OR) 1·41, 95 per cent c.i. 1·30 to 1·52; P < 0·001) and tumour downstaging (OR 1·18, 1·05 to 1·32; P = 0·004). R0 resection rates, TME completeness, lymph node yield, sphincter preservation, stoma formation and complication rates were similar between the two groups. The increased rate of pCR translated to reduced distant metastasis (OR 0·71, 0·54 to 0·93; P = 0·01) and overall recurrence (OR 0·76, 0·58 to 0·98; P = 0·04), but not local recurrence (OR 0·83, 0·49 to 1·42; P = 0·50).

CONCLUSION: A minimum 8-week interval from the end of nCRT to TME increases pCR and downstaging rates, and improves recurrence-free survival without compromising surgical morbidity.

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