This study aims to explore the influence of chemoradiation treatment (CRT) on rectal cancer nodes and to generate hypotheses why nodal restaging post-CRT is more accurate than at primary staging. Thirty-nine patients with locally advanced rectal cancer underwent MRI pre- and post-CRT. All visible mesorectal nodes were measured on a 3D T1-weighted gradient echo (3D T1W GRE) sequence with 1-mm(3) voxels and matched between pre- and post-CRT-MRI and with histology by lesion-by-lesion matching. Change in number and size of nodes was compared between pre- and post-CRT-MRI. ROC curves were constructed to assess diagnostic performance of size. Eight hundred ninety-five nodes were found pre-CRT: 44 % disappeared and 40 % became smaller post-CRT. Disappearing nodes were initially significantly smaller than nodes that remained visible post-CRT: 2.9 mm vs. 3.8 mm. cN+ stage was predicted in 97 % pre-CRT and 36 % of patients had ypN+ post-CRT. ypN+ patients had significantly larger nodes than ypN0 patients both pre- and post-CRT. Optimal size cutoff for post-CRT ypN stage prediction was 2.5 mm (area under the curve (AUC) of 0.78) at MRI. After CRT, most lymph nodes become smaller, and many disappear. Size predicts disappearance and node positivity. Together with a low prevalence of ypN+, this can explain the higher accuracy of nodal staging after CRT than in a primary staging setting, possibly of use when considering organ-preserving strategies after CRT.
- Rectal cancer
- Nodal staging