The aim of this study was to evaluate the pathologic responses and changes to surgical strategies following preoperative chemoradiotherapy (PCRT) in rectal cancer patients according to their clinical T stage (cT).
The use of PCRT has recently been extended to less advanced disease.
The authors enrolled 650 patients with cT2 to 4 mid and low rectal cancer who received both PCRT and surgical resection. The rate of total regression and the proportion of local excision were compared according to the cT category. The 3-year recurrence-free survival (RFS) rate was compared using the log-rank test according to patient cT category, pathologic stage, and type of surgical treatment.
Patients with cT2 were older (P = 0.001), predominately female (P = 0.028), and had low-lying rectal cancer (P = 0.008). Pathologic total regression was achieved most frequently in cT2 patients (54% of cT2 versus 17.6% of cT3 versus 8.2% of cT4; P < 0.001). Local excision was performed on 42 cT2 (42%) and 24 cT3 (5.2%) patients (P < 0.001). The 3-year RFS rates differed according to both cT (P < 0.001) and ypT stage (P < 0.001). Among patients with ypT0 to 1 disease, the 3-year RFS did not differ according to the type of surgical treatment received (P = 0.5).
Total regression of the primary tumor and a change in the surgical strategy after PCRT are most commonly seen in cT2 disease. Although PCRT is not generally indicated for cT2 rectal cancer, optimal surgical treatment may be achieved with the tailored use of PCRT.