Neoadjuvant chemotherapy first, followed by chemoradiation and then surgery, in the management of locally advanced rectal cancer
Standard therapy for locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) is preoperative chemoradiotherapy and postoperative chemotherapy. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) the authors began offering FOLFOX (5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, and oxaliplatin) as initial treatment for patients with high-risk LARC to target micrometastases while treating the primary tumor. The purpose of this study is to report the safety and efficacy of initial FOLFOX given before chemoradiotherapy on tumor downsizing and pathologic complete response (pathCR) in LARC. The records of patients with stage II/III rectal cancer treated at MSKCC between 2007 and 2012 were reviewed. Of approximately 300 patients with LARC treated at MSKCC, 61 received FOLFOX as initial therapy. Of these 61 patients, 57 received induction FOLFOX (median 7 cycles) followed by chemoradiation, and 4 experienced an excellent response, declined chemoradiation, and underwent total mesorectal excision (TME). Twelve of the 61 patients did not undergo TME: 9 had a complete clinical response (CCR), 1 declined despite persistent tumor, 1 declined because of comorbidities, and 1 developed metastatic disease. Among the 61 patients receiving initial FOLFOX, 22 (36%) had either a pathCR (n=13) or a CCR (n=9). Of the 49 patients who underwent TME, all had R0 resections and 23 (47%) had tumor response greater than 90%, including 13 (27%) who experienced a pathCR. Of the 28 patients who received all 8 cycles of FOLFOX, 8 experienced a pathCR (29%) and 3 a CCR (11%). No serious adverse events occurred that required a delay in treatment during FOLFOX or chemoradiation. FOLFOX and chemoradiation before planned TME results in tumor regression, a high rate of delivery of planned therapy, and a substantial rate of pathCRs, and offers a good platform for nonoperative management in select patients.