Neoadjuvant therapy for rectal cancer: Histologic response of the primary tumor predicts nodal status

Thomas E. Read, Jose E. Andujar, Philip F. Caushaj, Douglas R. Johnston, David W. Dietz, Robert J. Myerson, James W. Fleshman, Elisa H. Birnbaum, Matthew G. Mutch, Ira J. Kodner

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119 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: This study was designed to compare histologic T and N stages in patients with rectal adenocarcinoma undergoing various neoadjuvant radiotherapy regimens and proctectomy, in an attempt to determine if final histologic stage of the mural tumor predicts nodal status. METHODS: Data were collected from computerized databases at two institutions on 649 consecutive patients who underwent neoadjuvant radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy and proctectomy for primary adenocarcinoma of the rectum from 1990 to 2002. RESULTS: Five patients were excluded because of incomplete pathology data sets, leaving a study population of 644. Patients underwent neoadjuvant radiotherapy alone (2,000 cGy in 5 fractions, n = 191; or 4,500 cGy in 25 fractions, n = 259) or chemoradiation (4,500 cGy in 25 fractions with concurrent 5-fluorouracil, n = 194). Histologic stage of the remaining mural tumor (ypT) correlated with nodal status (ypN). Lymph nodes harboring metastatic tumor were found in 1 of 42 (2 percent) ypT0 patients, 2 of 45 (4 percent) ypT1 patients, 43 of 186 (23 percent) ypT2 patients, 158 of 338 (47 percent) ypT3 patients, and 16 of 33 (48 percent) ypT4 patients (P < 0.001, chi-squared test). The probability of finding ypN+ disease was 3 of 87 (3 percent) in patients with ypT0-1 residual primary tumors vs. 220 of 557 (39 percent) in patients with ypT2-4 residual primary tumors (P < 0.0001; Fisher's exact test). CONCLUSIONS: Nodal metastases are rare in patients whose mural tumor burden shrinks to ypT0-1 after neoadjuvant radiotherapy. If transanal excision is offered to select patients with distal rectal cancer, it is reasonable to select those who have an excellent clinical response to neoadjuvant therapy for transanal excision, and then reserve proctectomy for patients proven to have residual ypT2-4 disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-831
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2004


  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Cancer
  • Local excision
  • Lymph nodes
  • Neoadjuvant
  • Proctectomy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Rectal
  • Rectum
  • Transanal
  • Treatment


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