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Dis Colon Rectum. 2006 Mar;49(3):302-10.

Role of radiotherapy with surgery for T3 and resectable T4 rectal cancer: evidence from randomized trials.

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  • 1Department of Radiotherapy, Centre Antoine-Lacassagn, Nice, France.



The main treatment for resectable rectal cancer T2-T4 N0-N2 M0 is surgery. The benefit of preoperative or postoperative radiation therapy can be analyzed in terms of improvement of local control, sphincter preservation, and survival weighted against increased toxicity.


Only randomized trials can provide strong evidence of a positive cost-benefit ratio of such combined approach. The most recent trials were reviewed.


Three randomized trials, including the latest German CAO-ARO trial, have demonstrated the superiority of preoperative radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy (vs. postoperative) in terms of local control and toxicity. The Ducth TME trial showed that even with modern standard surgery, preoperative radiotherapy improved local control. Preoperative irradiation using a high dose in a small volume and a long interval before surgery may improve sphincter preservation (Lyon trials). Concurrent chemoradiation (FFCD 9203, EORTC 22921, did not significantly improve sphincter preservation or survival but significantly reduced the local recurrence rate.


In 2005 examination of randomized trials provides evidence for the benefit of preoperative chemoradiation in improving local control and probably sphincter preservation in rectal cancer. Randomized trials should be designed to further demonstrate improved sphincter preservation and to increase survival using adjuvant medical treatments.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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