Total Neoadjuvant Therapy With Short-Course Radiation: US Experience of a Neoadjuvant Rectal Cancer Therapy

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Diseases of the colon and rectum


BACKGROUND: Short-course radiation followed by chemotherapy as total neoadjuvant therapy has been investigated primarily in Europe and Australia with increasing global acceptance. There are limited data on this regimen's use in the United States, however, potentially delaying implementation.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to compare clinical performance and oncologic outcomes of 2 rectal cancer neoadjuvant treatment modalities: short-course total neoadjuvant therapy versus standard chemoradiation.

DESIGN: This is a retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: This study was performed at a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.

PATIENTS: A total of 413 patients had locally advanced rectal cancers diagnosed from June 2009 to May 2018 and received either short-course total neoadjuvant therapy or standard chemoradiation.

INTERVENTIONS: There were 187 patients treated with short-course total neoadjuvant therapy (5 × 5 Gy radiation followed by consolidation oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy) compared with 226 chemoradiation recipients (approximately 50.4 Gy radiation in 28 fractions with concurrent fluorouracil equivalent).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary end points were tumor downstaging, measured by complete response and "low" neoadjuvant rectal score rates, and progression-free survival. Secondary analyses included treatment characteristics and completion, sphincter preservation, and recurrence rates.

RESULTS: Short-course total neoadjuvant therapy was associated with higher rates of complete response (26.2% vs 17.3%; p = 0.03) and "low" neoadjuvant rectal scores (40.1% vs 25.7%; p < 0.01) despite a higher burden of node-positive disease (78.6% vs 68.9%; p = 0.03). Short-course recipients also completed trimodal treatment more frequently (88.4% vs 50.4%; p < 0.01) and had fewer months with temporary stomas (4.8 vs 7.0; p < 0.01). Both regimens achieved comparable local control (local recurrence: 2.7% short-course total neoadjuvant therapy vs 2.2% chemoradiation, p = 0.76) and 2-year progression-free survival (88.2% short-course total neoadjuvant therapy (95% CI, 82.9-93.5) vs 85.6% chemoradiation (95% CI, 80.5-90.7)).

LIMITATIONS: Retrospective design, unbalanced disease severity, and variable dosing of neoadjuvant consolidation chemotherapy were limitations of this study.

CONCLUSIONS: Short-course total neoadjuvant therapy was associated with improved downstaging and similar progression-free survival compared with chemoradiation. These results were achieved with shortened radiation courses, improved treatment completion, and less time with diverting ostomies. Short-course total neoadjuvant therapy is an optimal regimen for locally advanced rectal cancer.


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Medical Subject Headings

Adenocarcinoma; Aged; Chemoradiotherapy; Female; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Neoadjuvant Therapy; Neoplasm Staging; Proctectomy; Rectal Neoplasms; Retrospective Studies; Survival Rate; Treatment Outcome

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