Long-term results of a randomized trial in locally advanced rectal cancer: no benefit from adding a brachytherapy boost

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2014 Sep 1;90(1):110-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2014.05.023. Epub 2014 Jul 8.


Purpose/objective(s): Mature data on tumor control and survival are presented from a randomized trial of the addition of a brachytherapy boost to long-course neoadjuvant chemoradiation therapy (CRT) for locally advanced rectal cancer.

Methods and materials: Between March 2005 and November 2008, 248 patients with T3-4N0-2M0 rectal cancer were prospectively randomized to either long-course preoperative CRT (50.4 Gy in 28 fractions, per oral tegafur-uracil and L-leucovorin) alone or the same CRT schedule plus a brachytherapy boost (10 Gy in 2 fractions). The primary trial endpoint was pathologic complete response (pCR) at the time of surgery; secondary endpoints included overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), and freedom from locoregional failure.

Results: Results for the primary endpoint have previously been reported. This analysis presents survival data for the 224 patients in the Danish part of the trial. In all, 221 patients (111 control arm, 110 brachytherapy boost arm) had data available for analysis, with a median follow-up time of 5.4 years. Despite a significant increase in tumor response at the time of surgery, no differences in 5-year OS (70.6% vs 63.6%, hazard ratio [HR] = 1.24, P=.34) and PFS (63.9% vs 52.0%, HR=1.22, P=.32) were observed. Freedom from locoregional failure at 5 years were 93.9% and 85.7% (HR=2.60, P=.06) in the standard and in the brachytherapy arms, respectively. There was no difference in the prevalence of stoma. Explorative analysis based on stratification for tumor regression grade and resection margin status indicated the presence of response migration.

Conclusions: Despite increased pathologic tumor regression at the time of surgery, we observed no benefit on late outcome. Improved tumor regression does not necessarily lead to a relevant clinical benefit when the neoadjuvant treatment is followed by high-quality surgery.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Brachytherapy*
  • Chemoradiotherapy, Adjuvant / methods*
  • Denmark
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leucovorin / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiotherapy, Conformal
  • Rectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Tegafur / administration & dosage
  • Uracil / administration & dosage


  • Tegafur
  • Uracil
  • Leucovorin