Background: Neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy does not alter anal sphincter preservation or postoperative complications compared with short-course radiotherapy alone in patients with clinical stage T3 or T4 resectable rectal cancer. The aim of this study was to compare survival, local control and late toxicity in the two treatment groups.
Methods: The study randomized 312 patients to receive either preoperative irradiation (25 Gy in five fractions of 5 Gy) and surgery within 7 days or chemoradiation (50.4 Gy in 28 fractions of 1.8 Gy, bolus 5-fluorouracil and leucovorin) and surgery 4-6 weeks later. The median follow-up of living patients was 48 (range 31-69) months.
Results: Early radiation toxicity was higher in the chemoradiation group (18.2 versus 3.2 per cent; P < 0.001). The actuarial 4-year overall survival was 67.2 per cent in the short-course group and 66.2 per cent in the chemoradiation group (P = 0.960). Disease-free survival was 58.4 versus 55.6 per cent (P = 0.820), crude incidence of local recurrence was 9.0 versus 14.2 per cent (P = 0.170) and severe late toxicity was 10.1 versus 7.1 per cent (P = 0.360) respectively.
Conclusion: Neoadjuvant chemoradiation did not increase survival, local control or late toxicity compared with short-course radiotherapy alone.