Clinical examination following preoperative chemoradiation for rectal cancer is not a reliable surrogate end point.
PURPOSE: Clinical assessment of rectal cancer response to preoperative combined-modality therapy (CMT) using digital rectal examination (DRE) has been proposed as a means of assessing efficacy of therapy. However, because the accuracy of this approach has not been established, we conducted a prospective analysis to determine the operating surgeon's ability to assess response using DRE. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Ninety-four prospectively accrued patients with locally advanced rectal cancer (T3/4 or N1) were evaluated with DRE and sigmoidoscopy in order to determine the following tumor characteristics: size, location, mobility, morphology, and circumference. Following preoperative CMT (50.40 Gy with fluorouracil-based chemotherapy) and under general anesthesia, the same surgeon estimated tumor response based on changes in these tumor characteristics, assessed via DRE. Percent pathologic tumor response was determined prospectively by a single pathologist using whole mount sections of the resected cancer. RESULTS: Clinical assessment using DRE underestimated pathologic response in 73 cases (78%). In addition, DRE was able to identify only 3 of 14 cases (21%) with a pathologic complete response. There were no clinical overestimates of response. None of the clinicopathologic tumor characteristics examined had a significant impact on DRE estimation of response. CONCLUSION: Clinical examination underestimates the extent of rectal cancer response to preoperative CMT. Given the inaccuracy of DRE following preoperative CMT, it should not be used as a sole means of assessing efficacy of therapy nor for selecting patients following CMT for local surgical therapies.
Guillem, JG; Chessin, DB; Shia, J; Moore, HG; Mazumdar, M; Bernard, B; Paty, PB; Saltz, L; Minsky, BD; Weiser, MR; Temple, LKF; Cohen, AM; Wong, WD
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