Efficacy of Dose-Escalated Chemoradiation on Complete Tumor Response in Patients with Locally Advanced Rectal Cancer (RECTAL-BOOST): A Phase 2 Randomized Controlled Trial

Alice M. Couwenberg*, Johannes P. M. Burbach, Maaike Berbee, Miangela M. Lacle, Rene Arensman, Mihaela G. Raicu, Frank J. Wessels, Joanne Verdult, Jeanine Roodhart, Onne Reerink, Sieske Hoendervangers, Jeroen Buijsen, Heike Grabsch, Apollo Pronk, Esther C. J. Consten, Anke B. Smits, Joost T. Heikens, Ane L. Appelt, Wilhelmina M. U. van Grevenstein, Helena M. VerkooijenMartijn P. W. Intven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Purpose: Pathologic complete tumor response after chemoradiation in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) is associated with a favorable prognosis and allows organ-sparing treatment strategies. In the RECTAL-BOOST trial, we aimed to investigate the effect of an external radiation boost to the tumor before chemoradiation on pathologic or sustained clinical complete tumor response in LARC.

Methods and Materials: This multicenter, nonblinded, phase 2 randomized controlled trial followed the trials-within-cohorts design, which is a pragmatic trial design allowing cohort participants to be randomized for an experimental intervention. Patients in the intervention group are offered the intervention (and can either accept or refuse this), whereas patients in the control group are not notified about the randomization. Participants of a colorectal cancer cohort referred for chemoradiation of LARC to either of 2 radiation therapy centers were eligible. Patients were randomized to no boost or an external radiation boost (5 x 3 Gy) without concurrent chemotherapy, directly followed by standard pelvic chemoradiation (25 x 2 Gy with concurrent capecitabine). The primary outcome was pathologic complete response (ie, ypT0N0) in patients with planned surgery at 12 weeks, or, as surrogate for pathologic complete response, a 2-year sustained clinical complete response for patients treated with an organ preservation strategy. Analyses were intention to treat. The study was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01951521.

Results: Between September 2014 and July 2018, 128 patients were randomized. Fifty-one of the 64 (79.7%) patients in the intervention group accepted and received a boost. Compared with the control group, fewer patients in the intervention group had a cT4 stage and a low rectal tumor (31.3% vs 17.2% and 56.3% vs 45.3%, respectively), and more patients had a cN2 stage (59.4% vs 70.3%, respectively). Rate of pathologic or sustained clinical complete tumor response was similar between the groups: 23 of 64 (35.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 24.3-48.9) in the intervention group versus 24 of 64 (37.5%; 95% CI, 25.7-50.5) in the control group (odds ratio [OR] = 0.94; 95% CI, 0.46-1.92). Near-complete or complete tumor regression was more common in the intervention group (34 of 49; 69.4%) than in the control group (24 of 53; 45.3%; (OR = 2.74, 95% CI 1.21-6.18). Grade >= 3 acute toxicity was comparable: 6 of 64 (9.4%) in the intervention group versus 5 of 64 (7.8%) in the control group (OR Z 1.22; 95% CI, 0.35-4.22).

Conclusions: Dose escalation with an external radiation therapy boost to the tumor before neoadjuvant chemoradiation did not increase the pathologic or sustained clinical complete tumor response rate in LARC. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1018
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


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