Short-course radiotherapy (SC-RT) and long-course chemoradiotherapy (LC-CRT) are accepted neoadjuvant treatments of rectal cancer. In the current study, the authors surveyed US radiation oncologists to assess practice patterns and attitudes regarding SC-RT and LC-CRT for patients with rectal cancer.METHODS:
The authors distributed a survey to 1701 radiation oncologists regarding treatment of neoadjuvant rectal cancer. Respondents were asked questions regarding the number of patients with rectal cancer treated, preference for SC-RT versus LC-CRT, and factors influencing regimen choice.RESULTS:
Of 1659 contactable physicians, 182 responses (11%) were received. Approximately 83% treated at least 5 patients with rectal cancer annually. The majority of responding radiation oncologists (96%) preferred neoadjuvant LC-CRT for the treatment of patients with locally advanced rectal cancer and 44% never used SC-RT. Among radiation oncologists using SC-RT, respondents indicated they would not recommend this regimen for patients with low (74%) or bulky tumors (70%) and/or concern for a positive circumferential surgical resection margin (69%). The most frequent reasons for not offering SC-RT were insufficient downstaging for sphincter preservation (53%) and a desire for longer follow-up (45%). Many radiation oncologists indicated they would prescribe SC-RT for patients not receiving chemotherapy (62%) or patients with a geographic barrier to receiving LC-CRT (82%). Patient comorbidities appeared to influence regimen preferences for 79% of respondents. Approximately 20% of respondents indicated that altered oncology care reimbursement using capitated payment by diagnosis would impact their consideration of SC-RT.CONCLUSIONS:
US radiation oncologists rarely use neoadjuvant SC-RT despite 3 randomized controlled trials demonstrating no significant differences in outcome compared with LC-CRT. Further research is necessary to determine whether longer follow-up coupled with the benefits of lower cost, increased patient convenience, and lower acute toxicity will increase the adoption of SC-RT by radiation oncologists in the United States. Cancer2017;123:1434–1441. © 2016 American Cancer Society.CONCLUSIONS:
Radiation oncologists in the United States strongly favor long-course chemoradiotherapy over short-course radiotherapy for the neoadjuvant treatment of patients with rectal cancer. Concerns regarding insufficient downstaging after short-course radiotherapy and a desire for longer follow-up contribute to this preference.