Phase III Trial of Fluorouracil-Based Chemotherapy Regimens Plus Radiotherapy in Postoperative Adjuvant Rectal Cancer: GI INT 0144

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Adjuvant chemoradiotherapy after or before resection of high-risk rectal cancer improves overall survival (OS) and pelvic control. We studied three postoperative fluorouracil (FU) radiochemotherapy regimens.

Patients and Methods

After resection of T3-4, N0, M0 or T1-4, N1, 2M0 rectal adenocarcinoma, 1,917 patients were randomly assigned to arm 1, with bolus FU in two 5-day cycles every 28 days before and after radiotherapy (XRT) plus FU via protracted venous infusion (PVI) 225 mg/m2/d during XRT; arm 2 (PVI-only arm), with PVI 42 days before and 56 days after XRT + PVI; or arm 3 (bolus-only arm), with bolus FU + leucovorin (LV) in two 5-day cycles before and after XRT, plus bolus FU + LV (levamisole was administered each cycle before and after XRT). Patients were stratified by operation type, T and N stage, and time from surgery.


Median follow-up was 5.7 years. Lethal toxicity was less than 1%, with grade 3 to 4 hematologic toxicity in 49% to 55% of the bolus arms versus 4% in the PVI arm. No disease-free survival (DFS) or OS difference was detected (3-year DFS, 67% to 69% and 3-year OS, 81% to 83% in all arms). Locoregional failure (LRF) at first relapse was 8% in arm 1, 4.6% in arm 2, and 7% in arm 3. LRF in T1-2, N1-2, and T3, N0-2 primaries who received low anterior resection (those most suitable for primary resection) was 5% in arm 1, 3% in arm 2, and 5% in arm 3.


All arms provide similar relapse-free survival and OS, with different toxicity profiles and central catheter requirements. LRF with postoperative therapy is low, justifying initial resection for T1-2, N0-2 and T3, and N0-2 anterior resection candidates.

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