Purpose: This article reports the overall survival, failure-free survival, local failure, and late radiation toxicity of a phase II trial of preoperative radiotherapy with continuous infusion 5-fluorouracil for rectal cancer after a minimum 3.5 years of follow-up.
Methods: Eligible patients were those with newly diagnosed localized adenocarcinoma of the rectum, within 12 cm of the anal verge, staged T3-T4 and deemed suitable for curative resection. Radiotherapy (50.4 Gy in 28 fractions in five weeks and three days) was given with continuous infusion 5-fluorouracil throughout the course of radiotherapy.
Results: A total of 82 patients were accrued in 13 months. The median follow-up time was 4.1 (range, 2.3-4.5) years. There were 55 males (67 percent) and the median age was 59 (range, 27-87) years. Patients were staged pretreatment as T3 (89 percent) and resectable T4 (11 percent). Endorectal ultrasound was performed in 70 percent and magnetic resonance imaging in another 5 percent. The four-year overall and failure-free survival rates were 82 percent (95 percent CI: 72-89) and 69 percent (95 percent CI: 58-78), respectively. The cumulative incidence of local failure at four years was 3.9 percent (95 percent CI: 1.3-11). Risk of failures, local and distant, has not reached a plateau phase.
Conclusion: This regimen can be delivered safely and without leading to a significant increase in late toxicity. It provides excellent local control and favorable overall survival. There is a need for longer follow-up than has commonly been used for the proper evaluation of failures after an effective regimen of preoperative chemoradiation.