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Cancer. 2017 May 1;123(9):1497-1506. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30600. Epub 2017 Mar 10.

Total neoadjuvant therapy for rectal cancer: An emerging option.

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Division of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Department of Radiation Oncology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.


The treatment of locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) has benefited from improved surgical techniques and from the implementation of neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (CRT), which have markedly decreased the rates of local recurrence. However, distant metastatic disease remains the most significant cause of death for these patients. Although adjuvant chemotherapy (ChT) after neoadjuvant CRT and definitive surgery is commonly recommended, the value of adjuvant systemic therapy remains less clear. Trials evaluating adjuvant ChT for rectal cancer have been handicapped by poor compliance rates and inconsistent survival results. Shifting systemic therapy delivery to the neoadjuvant setting has the promise to improve compliance rates, reduce toxicity, and decrease distant relapse rates. Recently, multiple prospective trials have reported on the use of total neoadjuvant therapy (TNT) for patients with LARC, incorporating both ChT and CRT in the neoadjuvant setting. Here, the authors review the promising results from those trials. Because the studies have largely focused on pathologic outcomes (primarily pathologic complete response rates), ongoing phase 2 and 3 trials are now underway assessing the long-term disease-related outcomes with TNT. In addition to improving survival, TNT has the potential to increase the pool of patients with LARC who are eligible for organ preservation, which is also being evaluated. Cancer 2017;123:1497-1506.


chemoradiation; chemotherapy; neoadjuvant therapy; nonoperative management; organ preservation; radiation therapy; rectal cancer; total neoadjuvant therapy

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