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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1998 Jan 15;40(2):427-35.

Treatment of locally recurrent rectal carcinoma--results and prognostic factors.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital/University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To assess the local control and survival in patients who received pelvic irradiation for locally recurrent rectal carcinoma.


The records of 519 patients with locally recurrent rectal carcinoma treated principally with external-beam radiation therapy between 1975 to 1985 at a single institute were retrospectively reviewed. These included 326 patients who relapsed locally following previous abdominoperineal resection, 151 after previous low anterior resection, and 42 after previous local excision or electrocoagulation for the primary. No patients had received adjuvant radiation therapy or chemotherapy for the primary disease. Concurrent extrapelvic distant metastases were found in 164 (32%) patients at local recurrence and, in the remaining 355, the relapse was confined to the pelvis. There were 290 men and 229 women whose age ranged from 23 to 91 years (median = 65). Median time from initial surgery to radiation therapy for local recurrence was 18 months (3-138 months). Radiation therapy was given with varying dose-fractionation schedules, total doses ranging from 4.4 to 65.0 Gy (median = 30 Gy) over 1 to 92 days (median = 22 days). For 214 patients who received a total dose > or = 35 Gy, radiation therapy was given in 1.8 to 2.5 Gy daily fractions.


The median survival was 14 months and the median time to local disease progression was 5 months from date of pelvic irradiation. The 5-year survival was 5%, and the pelvic disease progression-free rate was 7%. Twelve patients remained alive and free of disease at 5 years after pelvic irradiation. Upon multivariate analysis, overall survival was positively correlated with ECOG performance status (p = 0.0001), absence of extrapelvic metastases (p = 0.0001), long intervals from initial surgery to radiation therapy for local recurrence (p = 0.0001), total radiation dose (p = 0.0001), and absence of obstructive uropathy (p = 0.0013). Pelvic disease progression-free rates were positively correlated with ECOG performance status (p = 0.0001), total radiation dose (p = 0.0001), and previous conservative surgery for the primary (p = 0.02).


Survival is poor for patients who develop local recurrence following previous surgery for rectal carcinoma. Pelvic radiation therapy provides only short-term palliation, and future efforts should be directed to the use of effective adjuvant therapy for patients with rectal carcinoma who are at high risk of local recurrence.

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