Wait-and-see policy for clinical complete responders after chemoradiation for rectal cancer

M. Maas, R.G. Beets Tan, D.M. Lambregts, G. Lammering, P.J. Nelemans, S.M. Engelen, R.M. van Dam, R.L. Jansen, M. Sosef, J.W. Leijtens, K.W.E. Hulsewé, J. Buijsen, G.L. Beets*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


PURPOSENeoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy for rectal cancer can result in complete disappearance of tumor and involved nodes. In patients without residual tumor on imaging and endoscopy (clinical complete response [cCR]) a wait-and-see-policy (omission of surgery with follow-up) might be considered instead of surgery. The purpose of this prospective cohort study was to evaluate feasibility and safety of a wait-and-see policy with strict selection criteria and follow-up. PATIENTS AND METHODSPatients with a cCR after chemoradiotherapy were prospectively selected for the wait-and-see policy with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and endoscopy plus biopsies. Follow-up was performed 3 to 6 monthly and consisted of MRI, endoscopy, and computed tomography scans. A control group of patients with a pathologic complete response (pCR) after surgery was identified from a prospective cohort study. Functional outcome was measured with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) bowel function questionnaire and Wexner incontinence score. Long-term outcome was estimated by using Kaplan-Meier curves.ResultsTwenty-one patients with cCR were included in the wait-and-see policy group. Mean follow-up was 25 +/- 19 months. One patient developed a local recurrence and had surgery as salvage treatment. The other 20 patients are alive without disease. The control group consisted of 20 patients with a pCR after surgery who had a mean follow-up of 35 +/- 23 months. For these patients with a pCR, cumulative probabilities of 2-year disease-free survival and overall survival were 93% and 91%, respectively. CONCLUSIONA wait-and-see policy with strict selection criteria, up-to-date imaging techniques, and follow-up is feasible and results in promising outcome at least as good as that of patients with a pCR after surgery. The proposed selection criteria and follow-up could form the basis for future randomized studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4633-4640
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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