A phase I/II trial of three-dimensionally planned concurrent boost radiotherapy and protracted venous infusion of 5-FU chemotherapy for locally advanced rectal carcinoma

Robert J. Myerson, Vincenzo Valentini, Elisa H. Birnbaum, Numa Cellini, Claudio Coco, James W. Fleshman, Maria Antonietta Gambacorta, Domenico Genovesi, Ira J. Kodner, Joel Picus, Gary A. Ratkin, Thomas E. Read

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Background: Improving the response to preoperative therapy may increase the likelihood of successful resection of locally advanced rectal cancers. Historically, the pathologic complete response (pCR) rate has been < ∼ 10% with preoperative radiation therapy alone and < ∼ 20% with concurrent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Methods and Materials: Thirty-seven patients were enrolled on a prospective Phase I/II protocol conducted jointly at Washington University, St. Louis and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome evaluating a three-dimensionally (3D) planned boost as part of the preoperative treatment of patients with unresectable or recurrent rectal cancer. Preoperative treatment consisted of 4500 cGy in 25 fractions over 5 weeks to the pelvis, with a 3D planned 90 cGy per fraction boost delivered once or twice a week concurrently (no time delay) with the pelvic radiation. Thus, on days when the boost was treated, the tumor received a dose of 270 cGy in one fraction while the remainder of the pelvis received 180 cGy. When indicated, nonaxial beams were used for the boost. The boost treatment was twice a week (total boost dose 900 cGy) if small bowel could be excluded from the boost volume, otherwise the boost was delivered once a week (total boost dose 450 cGy). Patients also received continuous infusion of 5-fluorouracil (1500 mg/m2-week) concurrently with the radiation as well as postoperative 5-FU/leucovorin. Results: All 37 patients completed preoperative radiotherapy as planned within 32-39 elapsed days. Twenty-seven underwent proctectomy; reasons for unresectability included persistant locally advanced disease (6 cases) and progressive distant metastatic disease with stable or smaller local disease (4 cases). Actuarial 3-year survival was 82% for the group as a whole. Among resected cases the 3-year local control and freedom from disease relapse were 86% and 69%, respectively. Twenty-four of the lesions (65%) achieved an objective clinical response by size criteria, including 9 (24%) with pCR at the primary site (documented T0 at surgery). The most important factor for pCR was tumor volume: small lesions with planning target volume (PTV) < 200 cc showed a 50% pCR rate (p = 0.02). There were no treatment associated fatalities. Nine of the 37 patients (24%) experienced Grade 3 or 4 toxicities (usually proctitis) during preoperative treatment. There were an additional 7 preoperative and 2 late toxicities. The most important factors for small bowel toxicity (acute or late) were small bowel volume (≥ 150 cc at doses exceeding 4000 cGy) and large tumor (PTV ≥ 800 cc). For rectal toxicity the threshold is PTV ≥ 500 cc. Conclusion: 3D planned boost therapy is feasible. In addition to permitting the use of nonaxial beams for improved dose distributions, 3D planning provides tumor and normal tissue dose-volume information that is important in interpreting outcome. Every effort should be made to limit the treated small bowel to less than 150 cc. Tumor size is the most important predictor of response, with small lesions of PTV < 200 cc most likely to develop complete responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299-1308
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001


  • Accelerated fractionation
  • Preoperative radiotherapy
  • Rectal cancer
  • Three-dimensional treatment planning


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