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Ann Surg. 2018 Dec;268(6):955-967. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000002761.

Oncological and Survival Outcomes in Watch and Wait Patients With a Clinical Complete Response After Neoadjuvant Chemoradiotherapy for Rectal Cancer: A Systematic Review and Pooled Analysis.

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Pelican Cancer Foundation, Basingstoke. Hampshire, UK.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, UK.
Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital. Hampshire, UK.
Angelita & Joaquim Gama Institute, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.



The aim of this study was to evaluate the oncological and survival outcomes of a Watch and Wait policy in rectal cancer after a clinical complete response (cCR) following neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy.


The detection of a cCR after neoadjuvant treatment may facilitate a nonoperative approach in selected patients. However, the long-term safety of this strategy remains to be validated.


This is a systematic review of the literature to determine the oncological outcomes in Watch and Wait patients. The primary outcome was the cumulative rate of local regrowth, success of salvage surgery, and incidence of metastases. We also evaluated survival outcomes. A pooled analysis of manually extracted summary statistics from individual studies was carried out using inverse variance weighting.


Seventeen studies comprising 692 patients were identified; incidence of cCR was 22.4% [95% confidence interval (CI),14.3-31.8]. There were 153 (22.1%) local regrowths, of which 96% (n = 147/153) manifested in the first 3 years of surveillance. The 3-year cumulative risk of local regrowth was 21.6% (95% CI, 16.0-27.8). Salvage surgery was performed in 88% of patients, of which 121 (93%) had a complete (R0) resection. Fifty-seven metastases (8.2%) were detected, and 35 (60%) were isolated without evidence of synchronous regrowths; 3-year incidence was 6.8% (95% CI, 4.1-10.2). The 3-year overall survival was 93.5% (95% CI, 90.2-96.2).


In rectal cancer patients with a cCR following neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy, a Watch and Wait policy appears feasible and safe. Robust surveillance with early detection of regrowths allows a high rate of successful salvage surgery, without an increase in the risk of systemic disease, or adverse survival outcomes.

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