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Eur J Cancer. 2013 Jul;49(10):2311-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2013.03.006. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

Modern multidisciplinary treatment of rectal cancer based on staging with magnetic resonance imaging leads to excellent local control, but distant control remains a challenge.

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Maastricht University Medical Center, Department of Surgery, PO Box 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands.



The purpose of this multicenter cohort study was to evaluate whether a differentiated treatment of primary rectal cancer based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can reduce the number of incomplete resections and local recurrences and improve recurrence-free and overall survival.


From February 2003 until January 2008, 296 patients with rectal cancer underwent preoperative MRI using a lymph node specific contrast agent to predict circumferential resection margin (CRM), T- and N-stage. Based on expert reading of the MRI, patients were stratified in: (a) low risk for local recurrence (CRM>2mm and N0 status), (b) intermediate risk and (c) high risk (close/involved CRM, N2 status or distal tumours). Mainly based on this MRI risk assessment patients were treated with (a) surgery only (TME or local excision), (b) preoperative 5 × 5 Gy+TME and (c) a long course of chemoradiation therapy followed by surgery after a 6-8 week interval.


Overall 228 patients underwent treatment with curative intent: 49 with surgery only, 86 with 5 × 5 Gy and surgery and 93 with chemoradiation and surgery. The number of complete resections (margin>1mm) was 218 (95.6%). At a median follow-up of 41 months the three-year local recurrence rate, disease-free survival rate and overall survival rate is 2.2%, 80% and 84.5%, respectively.


With a differentiated multimodality treatment based on dedicated preoperative MR imaging, local recurrence is no longer the main problem in rectal cancer treatment. The new challenges are early diagnosis and treatment, reducing morbidity of treatment and preferably prevention of metastatic disease.

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