Background: Several multicenter randomized controlled trials comparing laparoscopy and conventional open surgery for colon cancer have demonstrated that laparoscopic approach achieved the same oncological results while improving significantly early postoperative outcomes. These trials included few elderly patients, with a median age not exceeding 71 years. However, colon cancer is a disease of the elderly. More than 65% of patients operated on for colon cancer belong to this age group, and this proportion may become more pronounced in the coming years. In current practice, laparoscopy is underused in this population.
Methods: The CELL (Colectomy for cancer in the Elderly by Laparoscopy or Laparotomy) trial is a multicenter, open-label randomized, 2-arm phase III superiority trial. Patients aged 75 years or older with uncomplicated colonic adenocarcinoma or endoscopically unresectable colonic polyp will be randomized to either colectomy by laparoscopy or laparotomy. The primary endpoint of the study is overall postoperative morbidity, defined as any complication classification occurring up to 30 days after surgery. The secondary endpoints are: 30-day and 90-day postoperative mortality, 30-day readmission rate, quality of surgical resection, health-related quality of life and evolution of geriatric assessment. A 35 to 20% overall postoperative morbidity rate reduction is expected for patients operated on by laparoscopy compared with those who underwent surgery by laparotomy. With a two-sided α risk of 5% and a power of 80% (β = 0.20), 276 patients will be required in total.
Discussion: To date, no dedicated randomized controlled trial has been conducted to evaluate morbidity after colon cancer surgery by laparoscopy or laparotomy in the elderly and the benefits of laparoscopy is still debated in this context. Thus, a prospective multicenter randomized trial evaluating postoperative outcomes specifically in elderly patients operated on for colon cancer by laparoscopy or laparotomy with curative intent is warranted. If significant, such a study might change the current surgical practices and allow a significant improvement in the surgical management of this population, which will be the vast majority of patients treated for colon cancer in the coming years.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03033719 (January 27, 2017).
Keywords: Colon cancer; Elderly patient; Laparoscopy; Laparotomy; Morbidity; Phase III trial; Surgery.