Timing of adjuvant chemotherapy in colorectal cancer

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Delay in commencing adjuvant therapy for colorectal cancer seems to impair survival in some retrospective studies. This study was planned to evaluate its impact on survival.


This was a retrospective study enrolling patients registered from 2000 to 2012 in two large cancer-dedicated institutions in Brazil. The primary outcome was overall survival according to early vs late chemotherapy initiation. The interval between the primary surgery and the start of adjuvant chemotherapy was calculated. Survival was estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method and the impact of multiple prognostic factors on survival by Cox regression analysis.


By the end of 2012, a total of 1963 Stage II and III colorectal patients were identified and 1318 patients received adjuvant chemotherapy, with 22% and 46% of those starting adjuvant chemotherapy within 6 weeks and 8 weeks of surgery. The median period of follow-up was 41 months. Patients starting chemotherapy within 6–8 weeks of surgery had longer overall survival compared with those who started after (6 weeks vs later, hazard ratio 0.76, 95% CI 0.57–0.99, P = 0.046; 8 weeks vs later, hazard ratio 0.74, 95% CI 0.59–0.93, P = 0.011). In the multivariate analysis, age, stage, histological grade, angiolymphatic invasion, emergency surgery and preoperative therapy were independent prognostic factors, but the interval between surgery and start of adjuvant therapy was not.


In this large retrospective study, the standard prognostic factors impacted on survival whereas the timing of adjuvant therapy did not. Patients with delayed adjuvant chemotherapy may have worse prognostic factors which could play a major role in their poor outcome.

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