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Radiother Oncol. 2008 Jun;87(3):343-9. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Short-course preoperative radiotherapy with delayed surgery in rectal cancer - a retrospective study.

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Department of Oncology, Radiology and Clinical Immunology, Uppsala University Hospital, Upssala, Sweden.



In the most advanced, non-resectable primary rectal cancers, conventional long-course radiotherapy (RT) (1.8-2Gyx25-28), frequently combined with chemotherapy, has been used since tumour regression is needed in order to allow a radical (R0) resection. In Uppsala, short-course 5x5Gy with planned delayed surgery has been used in patients with contraindications to long-course RT (+/-chemotherapy). The aim is to describe our experience of using this approach in patients not eligible for standard treatment.


During 2002 and 2005, 46 patients with non-resectable rectal cancer (+/-synchronous distant metastases) were treated with 5x5Gy and delayed surgery if possible. The clinical records were retrospectively evaluated. The first group (A) had no metastases (T4NXM0), whereas the other two groups (B+C) had metastases (T4NXM1). In group (B), the patients had predominantly loco-regional disease and were not candidates for combination chemotherapy (high age, co-morbidities), and in group (C) up-front combination chemotherapy was given, with the intention to have surgery of both the primary and the secondaries if sufficient regression at both sites were seen.


The patients in the first two groups (A+B) were old (median 79 and 76 years, respectively), and had several co-morbidities. In group (C), median age was 63 years. The 5x5Gy RT was well tolerated by most patients, but grade IV diarrhoea was recorded in three elderly patients. One patient in the group (C) died from neutropenic fever. Many patients were reported to have less local symptoms after the treatment given. Delayed surgery was performed in all but nine patients. Radical surgery (R0+R1) was performed in 22 (92%) (group A), 4 (44%) (group B), and 6 (46%) (group C) patients, respectively. A pCR was seen in four patients (two in group A and two in group C). No postoperative deaths occurred.


Considering the very high age and presence of co-morbidity, the 5x5Gy schedule is well tolerated. Further, considering the very advanced local stage, the schedule has considerable anti-tumour activity and can result in radical surgery in a high proportion of patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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