Phase 1/2 study of valproic acid and short-course radiotherapy plus capecitabine as preoperative treatment in low-moderate risk rectal cancer-V-shoRT-R3 (Valproic acid - short RadioTherapy - rectum 3rd trial)

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Background: Locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) is a heterogeneous group of tumors where a risk-adapted therapeutic strategy is needed. Short-course radiotherapy (SCRT) is a more convenient option for LARC patients than preoperative long-course RT plus capecitabine. Histone-deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) have shown activity in combination with RT and chemotherapy in the treatment of solid tumors. Valproic acid (VPA) is an anti-epileptic drug with HDACi and anticancer activity. In preclinical studies, our group showed that the addition of HDACi, including VPA, to capecitabine produces synergistic antitumour effects by up-regulating thymidine phosphorylase (TP), the key enzyme converting capecitabine to 5-FU, and by downregulating thymidylate synthase (TS), the 5-FU target. Methods/Design: Two parallel phase-1 studies will assess the safety of preoperative SCRT (5 fractions each of 5 Gy, on days 1 to 5) combined with (a) capecitabine alone (increasing dose levels: 500-825 mg/m2/bid), on days 1-21, or (b) capecitabine as above plus VPA (oral daily day -14 to 21, with an intra-patient titration for a target serum level of 50-100 microg/ml) followed by surgery 8 weeks after the end of SCRT, in low-moderate risk RC patients. Also, a randomized phase-2 study will be performed to explore whether the addition of VPA and/or capecitabine to preoperative SCRT might increase pathologic complete tumor regression (TRG1) rate. A sample size of 86 patients (21-22/arm) was calculated under the hypothesis that the addition of capecitabine or VPA to SCRT can improve the TRG1 rate from 5% to 20%, with one-sided alpha = 0.10 and 80% power. Discussion: This project aims to improve the efficacy of preoperative treatment of LARC and to decrease the inconvenience and the cost of standard long-course RT. Correlative studies could identify both prognostic and predictive biomarkers and could add new insight in the mechanism of interaction between VPA, capecitabine and RT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number875
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 24 2014



  • HDAC inhibitors
  • Preoperative chemo-radiotherapy
  • Rectal cancer
  • Short-course radiotherapy (SCRT)
  • Valproic acid (VPA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics

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