Preoperative or Postoperative Therapy for Stage II or III Rectal Cancer: An Updated Practice Guideline
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AIMS: Uncertainty remains regarding the optimal therapy for patients with stage II or III rectal cancer. Systematic reviews and practice guidelines on preoperative and postoperative therapy for rectal cancer were published by the Gastrointestinal Cancer Disease Site Group in 2003 and 2000, respectively. The systematic reviews were updated and revised and new recommendations for preoperative and postoperative therapy were developed based on the updated body of evidence. The following research questions were addressed: After appropriate preoperative staging tests, should patients with resectable clinical stage II or III rectal cancer be offered preoperative radiotherapy (with or without chemotherapy)? What is the role of postoperative radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy for patients with resected stage II or III rectal cancer who have not received preoperative radiotherapy, in terms of improving survival and delaying local recurrence? MATERIALS AND METHODS: The MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library databases, as well as meeting proceedings from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, were searched for reports of randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses comparing preoperative or postoperative therapy with surgery alone or other preoperative or postoperative therapy for stage II or III rectal cancer. The draft practice guideline and systematic reviews were distributed through a mailed survey to 129 health care providers in Ontario for review. RESULTS: Systematic reviews on preoperative and postoperative therapy for rectal cancer were developed. On the basis of the evidence contained in these reviews, the Gastrointestinal Cancer Disease Site Group drafted recommendations. Of the 33 practitioners who responded to the mailed survey, 97% agreed with the draft recommendations as stated, 88% agreed that the report should be approved as a practice guideline and 94% indicated that they were likely to use the guideline in their own practice. CONCLUSIONS: Preoperative chemoradiotherapy is preferred, compared with standard fractionation preoperative radiotherapy alone, to decrease local recurrence. Preoperative chemoradiotherapy is also preferred, compared with a postoperative approach, to decrease local recurrence and adverse effects. For patients with relative contraindications to chemotherapy in the preoperative period, an acceptable alternative is preoperative radiotherapy alone followed by surgery. Patients with resected stage II or III rectal cancer who have not received preoperative radiotherapy should be offered postoperative therapy with concurrent chemoradiotherapy plus fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy.