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Radiol Oncol. 2012 Sep;46(3):252-7. doi: 10.2478/v10019-012-0030-2. Epub 2012 May 24.

Cetuximab in preoperative treatment of rectal cancer - term outcome of the XERT trial.

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Department of Radiotherapy, Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.



Preoperative capecitabine-based chemoradiotherapy (CRT) is feasible for the treatment of resectable locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC). To try to improve efficacy, we conducted a phase II study in which the epidermal growth factor receptor-targeting monoclonal antibody cetuximab was added to capecitabine-based CRT. The results for long-term survival and for an analysis investigating the relationship between survival and patient and disease characteristics, including tumour KRAS mutation status, and surgery type, are presented. PATIENTS AND METHODS.: Patients with resectable LARC received capecitabine (1250 mg/m(2) twice daily, orally) for 2 weeks followed by cetuximab alone (400 mg/m(2) for 1 week) and then with CRT (250 mg/m(2)/week) comprising capecitabine (825 mg/m(2) twice daily) and radiotherapy to the small pelvis (45 Gy in 25 1.8-Gy fractions), five days a week for five weeks. Surgery was conducted six weeks following CRT, with post-operative chemotherapy with capecitabine (1250 mg/m(2) twice daily for 14 days every 21 days) three weeks later.


Forty-seven patients were enrolled and 37 underwent treatment. Twenty-eight of the patients (75.7%) had T3N+ disease. Thirty-six patients were evaluable for efficacy. The median follow-up time was 39.0 months (range 5.0--87.0). The three-year local control, disease-free survival, relapse-free survival and overall survival rates were 96.9% (95% CI 90.0--100), 72.2% (57.5--86.9), 74.3% (95% CI 59.8--88.8) and 68.1% (95% CI 36.7--99.4), respectively. There was no significant association between survival and gender, age, tumour location in the rectum, type of surgery, pathological T or N status, tumour regression grade or tumour KRAS mutation status, although sample sizes were small.


Preoperative cetuximab plus capecitabine-based CRT was feasible in patients with resectable LARC and was associated with an impressive three-year local control rate. The use of tumour KRAS mutation status as a biomarker for the efficacy of cetuximab-based regimens in this setting requires further investigation.


cetuximab; radio-chemotherapy; rectal cancer

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