BACKGROUND: Short-course radiation therapy and consolidation chemotherapy with nonoperative intent has emerged as a novel treatment paradigm for patients with rectal cancer, but there are no data on the predictors of clinical complete response. OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the predictors of clinical complete response and survival. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort. SETTINGS: National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. PATIENTS: Patients with stage I to III rectal adenocarcinoma treated between January 2018 and May 2019 (n = 86). INTERVENTIONS: Short-course radiation therapy followed by consolidation chemotherapy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Logistic regression was performed to assess for predictors of clinical complete response. The end points included local regrowth-free survival, regional control, distant metastasis-free survival, and overall survival. RESULTS: A positive (+) circumferential resection margin by MRI at diagnosis was a significant predictor of nonclinical complete response (OR: 4.1, p = 0.009) when adjusting for CEA level and primary tumor size. Compared to patients with a negative (-) pathologic circumferential resection margin, patients with a positive (+) pathologic circumferential resection margin had inferior local regrowth-free survival (29% vs 87%, p < 0.001), regional control (57% vs 94%, p < 0.001), distant metastasis-free survival (43% vs 95%, p < 0.001), and overall survival (86% vs 95%, p < 0.001) at 2 years. However, the (+) and (-) circumferential resection margin by MRI subgroups in patients who had a clinical complete response both had similar regional control, distant metastasis-free survival, and overall survival of more than 90% at 2 years. LIMITATIONS: Retrospective design, modest sample size, short follow-up, and the heterogeneity of treatments. CONCLUSIONS: Circumferential resection margin involvement by MRI at diagnosis is a strong predictor of nonclinical complete response. However, patients who achieve a clinical complete response after short-course radiation therapy and consolidation chemotherapy with nonoperative intent have excellent clinical outcomes regardless of the initial circumferential resection margin status.
- Circumferential resection margin
- Clinical complete response
- Nonoperative management
- Rectal cancer
- Short-course radiation therapy