Risk-Adapted Neoadjuvant Chemoradiotherapy in Rectal Cancer: Final Report of the OCUM Study
22. August 2023
Purpose: We investigated whether neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) in patients with rectal cancer can be restricted to those at high risk of locoregional recurrence (LR) without compromising oncological outcomes.
Patients and methods: In a prospective multicenter interventional study, patients with rectal cancer (cT2-4, any cN, cM0) were classified according to the minimal distance between the tumor, suspicious lymph nodes or tumor deposits, and mesorectal fascia (mrMRF). Patients with a distance >1 mm underwent up-front total mesorectal excision (TME; low-risk group), whereas those with a distance ≤1 mm and/or cT4 and cT3 tumors in the lower rectal third received nCRT followed by TME surgery (high-risk group). The primary end point was 5-year LR rate.
Results: Of the 1,099 patients included, 884 (80.4%) were treated according to the protocol. A total of 530 patients (60%) underwent up-front surgery, and 354 (40%) had nCRT followed by surgery. Kaplan-Meier analyses revealed 5-year LR rates of 4.1% (95% CI, 2.7 to 5.5) for patients treated per protocol, 2.9% (95% CI, 1.3 to 4.5) after up-front surgery, and 5.7% (95% CI, 3.2 to 8.2) after nCRT followed by surgery. The 5-year rate of distant metastases was 15.9% (95% CI, 12.6 to 19.2) and 30.5% (95% CI, 25.4 to 35.6), respectively. In a subgroup analysis of 570 patients with lower and middle rectal third cII and cIII tumors, 257 (45.1%) were at low-risk. The 5-year LR rate in this group was 3.8% (95% CI, 1.4 to 6.2) after up-front surgery. In 271 high-risk patients (involved mrMRF and/or cT4), the 5-year rate of LR was 5.9% (95% CI, 3.0 to 8.8) and of metastases 34.5% (95% CI, 28.6 to 40.4); disease-free survival and overall survival were the worst.
Conclusion: The findings support the avoidance of nCRT in low-risk patients and suggest that in high-risk patients, neoadjuvant therapy should be intensified to improve prognosis.