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Time interval between surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with gastric cancer after gastrectomy: a population-based cohort study using a nationwide claim database.

BACKGROUND: Adjuvant chemotherapy can reduce recurrence rates by eradicating microscopic metastases which may persist after curative resection. However, the optimal time interval (TI) between the surgery and chemotherapy remains controversial.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigated the optimal TI between surgery and chemotherapy.

DESIGN: A population-based cohort study using a nationwide claims database.

METHODS: The data were obtained from the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) of Korea. We included patients who underwent gastrectomy between 2013 and 2018. To determine the optimal cutoff point of TI, a restricted cubic spline Cox regression model was established, and categorized the population into three groups based on TI: the early (⩽20 days), the late (⩾35 days), and the reference group (21-34 days), and with the reference group having the lowest mortality and recurrence. Propensity score matching was performed for each group. The primary outcomes were disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS).

RESULTS: After excluding ineligible participants, 6602 patients were included. The median DFS and OS did not differ significantly between the early and reference groups ( p  = 0.7258 and p  = 0.6056, respectively). In comparison between the late and reference groups, it was significantly lower in the late group ( p  = 0.0079). Five-year DFS rates were 77.6% and 81.3% in the late and reference groups, respectively. The late group showed worse OS than the reference group ( p  = 0.0336). Five-year OS rates were 82.1% and 85.0% in the late and reference groups, respectively. In the multivariable analysis, DFS in the late group retained inferiority [adjusted hazard ratio (aHR): 1.138, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.003-1.292, p  = 0.045]. OS showed a worse trend without significance compared to the reference group (aHR: 1.138, 95% CI: 0.984-1.317, p  = 0.0805).

CONCLUSION: Adjuvant chemotherapy after gastrectomy in patients with gastric cancer should be initiated within 5 weeks of surgery. A delay of more than 5 weeks may have a detrimental effect on the subsequent disease course.

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