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Acta Oncol. 2014 Jul;53(7):865-76. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2014.895037. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

Intraoperative radiotherapy for locally advanced or locally recurrent rectal cancer: Does it work at all?

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Department of Gastroenterological Surgery, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital , Oslo , Norway.



Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) has been given for primary and locally recurrent rectal cancer for 30 years. Still, its effect is not clear.


PubMed and EMBASE search for papers after 1989 on surgical treatment and external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) for primary advanced and locally recurrent rectal cancer, with and without IORT. From each center the most recent paper was generally selected. Survival and local recurrence at five years was tabulated for the total groups and separate R-stages. Also, the technique for IORT, use of EBRT and chemotherapy as well as surgical approach was registered.


In primary cancer 18 papers from 14 centers were tabulated, including one randomized and five internally comparing studies, as well as seven studies without IORT. In locally recurrent cancer 18 papers from 13 centers were tabulated, including four internally comparing studies and also five without IORT. Overall survival (OS) and local recurrence rate (LRR) were higher for primary cancer compared to recurrent cancer. Patients with R0 resections had better outcome than patients with R1 or R2 resections. For primary cancer OS and LR rate of the total groups and R0 stages was not influenced by IORT. An effect on R1/R2 stages cannot be excluded. The only randomized study (primary cancer) did not show any effect of IORT.


IORT does not convincingly improve OS and LR rate for primary and locally recurrent rectal cancer. If there is an effect of IORT, it is small and cannot be shown outside randomized studies analyzing the separate R stages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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