Role of combined-modality therapy in the management of locally advanced rectal cancer

Peter J. Hosein, Caio M. Rocha-Lima

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The majority of patients with nonmetastatic rectal cancer are candidates for an aggressive multimodality approach with curative intent. Preoperative staging is critical in determining which patients should be offered neoadjuvant therapy. Available staging tools include digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasound, computed tomography, positron-emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging scans. Magnetic resonance imaging has emerged as the most accurate staging modality in experienced centers. Multidisciplinary preoperative patient evaluation, better staging techniques, neoadjuvant chemoradiation, acceptance of shorter distal rectal margins, and transanal excision of T1 N0 rectal tumors in close proximity to the anal sphincter have resulted in decreased rates of abdominoperineal resections. Total mesorectal excision has been adopted as the standard surgical approach because of a reduction in rates of pelvic relapse. Preoperative and postoperative radiation therapy was shown to decrease the local recurrence rate, but not overall survival, in patients with resectable rectal cancer. The addition of chemotherapy to radiation was consistently shown to improve local control, and in some trials, improved overall survival. Neoadjuvant combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy are superior to adjuvant combined-modality therapy because of higher rates of sphincter preservation, less toxicity, and lower local recurrence rates. For patients with stage II or III disease, neoadjuvant continuous-infusion 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), concurrently with pelvic radiation, followed by postoperative 5-FU-based chemotherapy, remains the standard multimodality approach. Ongoing trials are testing the integration of newer cytotoxic agents such as capecitabine, oxaliplatin, irinotecan, and biologic agents such as cetuximab and bevacizumab to chemoradiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-375
Number of pages7
JournalClinical colorectal cancer
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Adjuvant therapy
  • Colorectal neoplasm
  • Neoadjuvant therapy
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Gastroenterology


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