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J BUON. 2013 Oct-Dec;18(4):989-95.

What is the significance of a microscopically positive resection margin in the curative-intent treatment of rectal adenocarcinoma? A retrospective study.

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  • 1Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Department of Oncology, Cluj-Napoca; Ion Chiricuta Institute of Oncology,Cluj-Napoca, Romania.



The aim of this study was to analyze the characteristics of patients with rectal cancer operated with a microscopic positive margin (R1) and thus avoid these situations or adapt treatment in these particular cases.


We reviewed all the pathology data of resected specimens from patients with rectal or recto-sigmoid cancer operated with curative intent at the Institute of Oncology "Prof. Dr. Ion Chiricuta" between 2000-2011 (763 patients in 12 years) and the pathology files of patients from other institutions referred for adjuvant treatment to our hospital (318 patients). We included patients with anterior resection, Hartmann's procedure and abdomino-perineal resection, but we excluded patients with local excision and patients with R2/R1 at first, but R0 after re-resection (56 patients). We have identified 31 patients with R1, but had to exclude one case from analysis because this patient was lost to follow-up.


With surgery alone the local relapse (LR) was unavoidable. In the neoadjuvant chemoradiation (CRT) group 85.7% of the patients did not develop LR despite of R1. In the adjuvant CRT cohort 50% of the patients were LR-free at 2 years after conventional radiotherapy (p<0.01).


Based on these results it is concluded that a clear resection margin is extremely important for the local control of rectal cancer, because it cannot be always compensated by adjuvant CRT. In R1 cases neoadjuvant CRT seems to offer better prognosis than adjuvant CRT. To avoid R1 and its consequences a good quality control of total mesorectal excision (TME) is needed and CRT should be done before and not after surgery. R1 after primary surgery needs to be compensated by re-resection if possible, otherwise probably high dose radiotherapy with chemotherapy is needed.

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