Clinically-staged T3N0 rectal cancer: Is preoperative chemoradiotherapy the optimal treatment?

Raffaele Lombardi, Dajana Cuicchi, Carmine Pinto, Francesca Di Fabio, Bruno Iacopino, Stefano Neri, Maria Lucia Tardio, Claudio Ceccarelli, Ferdinando Lecce, Giampaolo Ugolini, Sara Pini, Piergiorgio Di Tullio, Mario Taffurelli, Francesco Minni, Andrea Martoni, Bruno Cola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preoperative chemoradiotherapy has been widely adopted as the standard of care for stage II-III rectal cancers. However, patients with T3N0 lesions had been shown to have a better prognosis than other categories of locally advanced tumor. Thus, neoadjuvant chemoradiation is likely to be overtreatment in this subgroup of patients. Nevertheless, the low accuracy rate of preoperative staging techniques for detection of node-negative tumors does not allow to check this hypothesis. We analyzed a group of patients with cT3N0 low rectal cancer who underwent neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy with the purpose of evaluating the incidence of metastatic nodes in the resected specimens. Methods: Between January 2002 and February 2008, 100 patients with low rectal cancer underwent clinical staging by means of endorectal ultrasound, computed tomography, positron emission tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging. All patients received preoperative 5-fluorouracil-based chemoradiotherapy and surgical resection with curative aim. Results: Of 100 patients with locally advanced rectal cancer, 32 were clinically staged as T3N0M0. Pathological analysis showed the presence of lymph node metastases in nine patients (28%) (node-positive group). In the remaining 23 cases, clinical N stage was confirmed at pathology (node-negative group). Node-positive and node-negative groups differ only in the number of ypT3 tumors (P <.01). Conclusions: Our results indicate that immediate surgery for patients with cT3N0 rectal cancer represents an undertreatment risk in at least 28% of cases, making necessary the use of postoperative chemoradiotherapy. Preoperative chemoradiotherapy should be the therapy of choice on the grounds of the principle that overtreatment is less hazardous than undertreatment for cT3N0 rectal cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Surgical Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Oncology


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