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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2006 Feb;32(1):55-64. Epub 2005 Dec 1.

Pathological and molecular predictors of the response of rectal cancer to neoadjuvant radiochemotherapy.

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University Department of Surgery, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.



The prediction of sensitivity and resistance to neoadjuvant therapy has great potential value for many tumour sites. A neoadjuvant regimen is increasingly the gold standard in rectal cancer management and the aim of this review was to highlight predictive markers currently assessed and evaluate their clinical utility.


A systematic search of Medline was conducted using the following keywords 'colorectal', 'neoadjuvant', 'molecular', 'predict' and 'radiotherapy'. Original manuscripts from all relevant listings were sourced. These were hand searched for further articles of relevance.


Conventional indices including tumour stage and grade were unable to predict histological response. Immunohistochemical assessment of P53 gene, Bcl 2, Bax and microsatellite instability are of no predictive value. Studies utilising molecular response predictors from archival pre-treatment tumour tissues have identified several promising predictive markers including p21, spontaneous apoptosis and direct sequencing of the p53 gene. Global gene expression from fresh pre-treatment tissue using cDNA microarray has only recently been assessed but identified expression differences between 54 genes and was able to predict response with 78% sensitivity and 86% specificity.


Currently there are no clinically useful predictors of response based on standard pathological assessment and immunocytochemistry. Direct gene sequencing of p53, studies of apoptosis and global gene sequencing may hold promise.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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