Background: The primary results of our phase II randomized trial suggested that compared with conventional preoperative chemoradiation (CRT), the addition of chemotherapy (CT) before CRT and surgery allows most patients receive their planned treatment with a better toxicity profile without compromising the pathological complete response and complete resection rates. We now report the 5-year outcomes.
Patients and methods: Patients with distal or middle third, T3-T4 and/or N+ rectal adenocarcinoma selected by magnetic resonance imaging, were randomly assigned to arm A-preoperative CRT followed by surgery and four cycles of postoperative adjuvant capecitabine and oxaliplatin (CAPOX)-or arm B-four cycles of CAPOX followed by CRT and surgery. The following 5-year actuarial outcomes were assessed: the cumulative incidence of local relapse (LR) and distant metastases (DM), disease-free (DFS) and overall survival (OS).
Results: A total of 108 eligible patients were randomly assigned to arm A (n = 52) or arm B (n = 56). With a median follow-up of 69.5 months, 5-year DFS was 64% in arm A and 62% in arm B (P = 0.85) and 5-year OS was 78% in arm A and 75% in arm B (P = 0.64). The 5-year cumulative incidence of LR was 2% and 5% (P = 0.61) and 5-year cumulative incidence of DM was 21% and 23%; (P = 0.79) in arms A and B, respectively.
Conclusion: Both treatment approaches yield similar outcomes. Given the lower acute toxicity and improved compliance with induction CT compared with adjuvant CT, integrating effective systemic therapy before CRT and surgery is a promising strategy and should be examined in phase III trials.