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Radical surgery versus organ preservation for early-stage rectal cancer – Authors' reply

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... LE has been part of organ preservation in certain strategies where in relatively early rectal tumors the scar or small remnant after chemoradiation has been removed as a planned procedure [4,[7][8][9][10]. With this strategy, preservation of the rectum can be ensured in a high number of cases without compromising locoregional control [11,12]. ...
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Rectal cancer patients with a clinical complete response to neoadjuvant (chemo)radiation are eligible for Watch and Wait (W&W). For local regrowth, total mesorectal excision (TME) is considered the standard of care. This study evaluated local excision (LE) for suspected local regrowth. From 591 patients prospectively entered into a national W&W registry, 77 patients with LE for regrowth were included. Outcomes analyzed included histopathologic findings, locoregional recurrence, long-term organ preservation, and colostomy-free and overall survival. In total, 27/77 patients underwent early LE (<6 months after neoadjuvant radiotherapy) and 50/77 underwent late LE (≥6 months). Median follow-up was 53 (39–69) months. In 28/77 patients the LE specimen was histopathologically classified as ypT0 (including 9 adenomas); 11/77 were ypT1, and 38/77 were ypT2–3. After LE, 13/77 patients with ypT2–3 and/or irradical resection underwent completion TME. Subsequently, 14/64 patients without completion TME developed locoregional recurrence, and were successfully treated with salvage TME. Another 8/77 patients developed distant metastases. At 5 years, overall organ preservation was 63%, colostomy-free survival was 68%, and overall survival was 96%. There were no differences in outcomes between early or late LE. In W&W for rectal cancer, LE can be considered as an alternative to TME for suspected regrowth in selected patients who wish to preserve their rectum or avoid colostomy in distal rectal cancer
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Background Radical surgery via total mesorectal excision might not be the optimal first-line treatment for early-stage rectal cancer. An organ-preserving strategy with selective total mesorectal excision could reduce the adverse effects of treatment without substantially compromising oncological outcomes. We investigated the feasibility of recruiting patients to a randomised trial comparing an organ-preserving strategy with total mesorectal excision. Methods TREC was a randomised, open-label feasibility study done at 21 tertiary referral centres in the UK. Eligible participants were aged 18 years or older with rectal adenocarcinoma, staged T2 or lower, with a maximum diameter of 30 mm or less; patients with lymph node involvement or metastases were excluded. Patients were randomly allocated (1:1) by use of a computer-based randomisation service to undergo organ preservation with short-course radiotherapy followed by transanal endoscopic microsurgery after 8–10 weeks, or total mesorectal excision. Where the transanal endoscopic microsurgery specimen showed histopathological features associated with an increased risk of local recurrence, patients were considered for planned early conversion to total mesorectal excision. A non-randomised prospective registry captured patients for whom randomisation was considered inappropriate, because of a strong clinical indication for one treatment group. The primary endpoint was cumulative randomisation at 12, 18, and 24 months. Secondary outcomes evaluated safety, efficacy, and health-related quality of life assessed with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) QLQ C30 and CR29 in the intention-to-treat population. This trial is registered with the ISRCTN Registry, ISRCTN14422743. Findings Between Feb 22, 2012, and Dec 19, 2014, 55 patients were randomly assigned at 15 sites; 27 to organ preservation and 28 to radical surgery. Cumulatively, 18 patients had been randomly assigned at 12 months, 31 at 18 months, and 39 at 24 months. No patients died within 30 days of initial treatment, but one patient randomly assigned to organ preservation died within 6 months following conversion to total mesorectal excision with anastomotic leakage. Eight (30%) of 27 patients randomly assigned to organ preservation were converted to total mesorectal excision. Serious adverse events were reported in four (15%) of 27 patients randomly assigned to organ preservation versus 11 (39%) of 28 randomly assigned to total mesorectal excision (p=0·04, χ² test). Serious adverse events associated with organ preservation were most commonly due to rectal bleeding or pain following transanal endoscopic microsurgery (reported in three cases). Radical total mesorectal excision was associated with medical and surgical complications including anastomotic leakage (two patients), kidney injury (two patients), cardiac arrest (one patient), and pneumonia (two patients). Histopathological features that would be considered to be associated with increased risk of tumour recurrence if observed after transanal endoscopic microsurgery alone were present in 16 (59%) of 27 patients randomly assigned to organ preservation, versus 24 (86%) of 28 randomly assigned to total mesorectal excision (p=0·03, χ² test). Eight (30%) of 27 patients assigned to organ preservation achieved a complete response to radiotherapy. Patients who were randomly assigned to organ preservation showed improvements in patient-reported bowel toxicities and quality of life and function scores in multiple items compared to those who were randomly assigned to total mesorectal excision, which were sustained over 36 months’ follow-up. The non-randomised registry comprised 61 patients who underwent organ preservation and seven who underwent radical surgery. Non-randomised patients who underwent organ preservation were older than randomised patients and more likely to have life-limiting comorbidities. Serious adverse events occurred in ten (16%) of 61 non-randomised patients who underwent organ preservation versus one (14%) of seven who underwent total mesorectal excision. 24 (39%) of 61 non-randomised patients who underwent organ preservation had high-risk histopathological features, while 25 (41%) of 61 achieved a complete response. Overall, organ preservation was achieved in 19 (70%) of 27 randomised patients and 56 (92%) of 61 non-randomised patients. Interpretation Short-course radiotherapy followed by transanal endoscopic microsurgery achieves high levels of organ preservation, with relatively low morbidity and indications of improved quality of life. These data support the use of organ preservation for patients considered unsuitable for primary total mesorectal excision due to the short-term risks associated with this surgery, and support further evaluation of short-course radiotherapy to achieve organ preservation in patients considered fit for total mesorectal excision. Larger randomised studies, such as the ongoing STAR-TREC study, are needed to more precisely determine oncological outcomes following different organ preservation treatment schedules. Funding Cancer Research UK.
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Introduction Total mesorectal excision (TME) is the highly effective standard treatment for rectal cancer but is associated with significant morbidity and may be overtreatment for low-risk cancers. This study is designed to determine the feasibility of international recruitment in a study comparing organ-saving approaches versus standard TME surgery. Methods and analysis STAR-TREC trial is a multicentre international randomised, three-arm parallel, phase II feasibility study in patients with biopsy-proven adenocarcinoma of the rectum. The trial is coordinated from Birmingham, UK with national hubs in Radboudumc (the Netherlands) and Odense University Hospital Svendborg UMC (Denmark). Patients with rectal cancer, staged by CT and MRI as ≤cT3b (up to 5 mm of extramural spread) N0 M0 can be included. Patients will be randomised to either standard TME surgery (control), organ-saving treatment using long-course concurrent chemoradiation or organ-saving treatment using short-course radiotherapy. For patients treated with an organ-saving strategy, clinical response to (chemo)radiotherapy determines the next treatment step. An active surveillance regime will be performed in the case of a complete clinical regression. In the case of incomplete clinical regression, patients will proceed to local excision using an optimised platform such as transanal endoscopic microsurgery or other transanal techniques (eg, transanal endoscopic operation or transanal minimally invasive surgery). The primary endpoint of this phase II study is to demonstrate sufficient international recruitment in order to sustain a phase III study incorporating pelvic failure as the primary endpoint. Success in phase II is defined as randomisation of at least four cases per month internationally in year 1, rising to at least six cases per month internationally during year 2. Ethics and dissemination The medical ethical committees of all the participating countries have approved the study protocol. Results of the primary and secondary endpoints will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Trial registration number ISRCTN14240288, 20 October 2016. NCT02945566; Pre-results, October 2016.
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Transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM) for early rectal cancer (ERC) gives results similar to major surgery in selected cases. Endorectal ultrasound (ERUS) is an important part of the preoperative selection process. This study reports its accuracy and impact for patients entered on the UK TEM database. The UK TEM database comprises prospectively collected data on 494 patients. This data set was used to determine the prevalence of ERUS in preoperative staging and its accuracy by comparing preoperative T-stage with definitive pathological staging following TEM. ERUS was performed in 165 of 494 patients who underwent TEM for rectal cancer. It inaccurately staged rectal cancer in 44.8% of tumours: 32.7% were understaged and 12.1% were overstaged. There was no significant difference in the depth of TEM excision or R1 rate between the patients who underwent ERUS before TEM and those who did not (P = 0.73). The data show that ERUS is employed in a minority of patients with rectal cancers undergoing TEM in the UK and its accuracy in this 'Real World' practice is disappointing.
Article
The cornerstone of treatment for rectal cancer is resectional treatment according to the principles of total mesorectal excision (TME). However, population-based registries show that improvements in outcome after resectional treatment occur mainly in younger patients. Furthermore, 6-month postoperative mortality is significantly increased in elderly patients (> or = 75 years of age) compared with younger patients (< 75 years of age). Several confounding factors, such as treatment-related complications and comorbidity, are thought to be responsible for these disappointing findings. Thus, major resectional treatment is not advantageous for all older patients with rectal cancer. However, the Dutch TME trial showed a good response to a short course of neoadjuvant radiotherapy in elderly patients. Biological responses to cancer treatment seem to change with age, and, therefore, individualised cancer treatments should be used that take into account the heterogeneity of ageing. For elderly patients who retain a good physical and mental condition, treatment that is given to younger patients is deemed appropriate, whereas for those with diminished physiological reserves and comorbid conditions, alternative treatments that keep surgical trauma to a minimum and optimise the use of radiotherapy might be more suitable.