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Oncotarget. 2015 Dec 8;6(39):42354-61. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.6093.

Wait-and-see or radical surgery for rectal cancer patients with a clinical complete response after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy: a cohort study.

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General Surgery Department, Affiliated Hospital/Clinical Medical College of Chengdu University, Chengdu, People's Republic of China.
2nd Affiliated Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, People's Republic of China.
Xuzhou Central Hospital, Xuzhou, People's Republic of China.
Beijing Youan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Hubei Cancer Hospital, Wuhan, People's Republic of China.
Cancer Institute/Hospital, Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, People's Republic of China.


A wait-and-see policy might be considered instead of surgery for rectal cancer patients with no residual tumor or involved lymph nodes on imaging or endoscopy after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (clinical complete response, cCR). In this cohort study, we compared the oncologic outcomes of rectal cancer patients with a cCR who were managed according to a wait-and-see policy (observation group) or with surgery (surgery group). In the observation group, follow-up was performed every 3 months for the first year and consisted of MRI, endoscopy with biopsy, computed tomography and transrectal ultrasonography. In the surgery group, patients received radical surgery. Long-term oncologic outcomes were estimated using Kaplan-Meier curves. Thirty patients were enrolled in the observation group (median follow-up, 60 months; range, 18-100 months), and 92 patients were enrolled in the surgery group (median follow-up, 58 months; range, 18-109 months). The 5-year disease free survival and overall survival rates were similar in the two groups: 90.0% vs. 94.3% (P = 0.932) and 100.0% vs. 95.6% (P = 0.912), respectively. We conclude that for rectal cancer patients with a cCR after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy, a wait-and-see policy with strict selection criteria, follow-up and salvage treatments achieves outcomes at least as good as radical surgery. Additionally, we declare that the pCR (pathologic complete regression) and non-pCR subgroups of patients with a cCR have similar long-term failure (local recurrence and/or distant metastasis) rate.


complete clinical response; neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy; rectal cancer

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