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Intensive Rectal Cancer Treatment Shows Promise

Tumors were downstaged in most patients following chemo-surgery regimen, researchers say

TUESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- An intensive treatment strategy shows promise against locally advanced rectal cancer.

The phase 2 study included 105 patients with poor-risk rectal cancer, meaning they have a high likelihood of disease recurrence and poor survival odds despite receiving standard chemotherapy and optimum surgery.

For this study, the patients underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy treatment with capecitabine and oxaliplatin, followed by chemoradiotherapy with capecitabine and surgery, followed by another 12 weeks of capecitabine treatment.

After three years, 68 percent of the patients had no cancer progression, and the overall survival rate was 83 percent. After five years, the overall survival rate was 75 percent.

"Tumor downstaging was shown in most patients receiving neoadjuvant treatment with a low incidence of involved [circumferential resection margins (CRMs)] in the surgical specimens. Before treatment, 90 percent of eligible patients had tumors with CRMs at risk or involved," wrote David Cunningham, from the Royal Marsden Hospital in England, and colleagues.

"With no disease recurrences up to now in patients who achieved pathological complete response, this would be a valid endpoint to be used in future studies ... our efficacy and safety findings justify further evaluation of neoadjuvant chemotherapy," they concluded.

The study was published online Jan. 25 in The Lancet Oncology.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about rectal cancer treatment.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet Oncology, news release, Jan. 25, 2010

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