Improved local control and survival with the “sandwich” technique of pelvic radiotherapy for resectable rectal cancer: A retrospective, multivariate analysis

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The following study was done to evaluate the therapeutic value of radiotherapy as an adjunct to surgery for rectal cancer patients.


One-hundred twenty-four patients underwent curative resection by one surgeon (RC) from 1982 to 1991. Forty patients received combined preoperative and postoperative (sandwich) radiotherapy, 30 patients received postoperative radiotherapy, and 54 patients were treated by surgery alone. During the study period sandwich radiotherapy was primarily offered as a free treatment option for patients with tumors which were believed to be transmurally invasive, whereas postoperative radiotherapy was an alternative therapeutic option offered to patients with tumor classified as Dukes B and C at histopathologic examination.


Operative mortality was 2 percent in the sandwich radiotherapy groupvs.7 percent in the surgery alone group. After a median follow-up of 60 months, the actuarial locoregional recurrence rate at five years was 3 percent for the sandwich radiotherapy group compared with 18 and 30 percent for the postoperative radiotherapy and surgery alone groups, respectively (P=0.019). A multivariate analysis using the Cox model confirmed the favorable independent influence of sandwich radiotherapy on local tumor control, especially in distal tumors. The therapeutic benefit of sandwich radiotherapy translated into increased survival in the low-rectum Dukes B subgroup of patients. The actuarial five-year survival rates were 86 percent, 50 percent, and 28 percent in the sandwich radiotherapy, postoperative radiotherapy and surgery alone groups, respectively (P=0.05).


Preoperative radiotherapy has a significant effect on the prognosis of rectal cancer patients.

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