BACKGROUND AND PURPOSES: To describe current practice in the management of rectal cancer, to identify uncertainties that usually arise in the multidisciplinary team (MDT)'s discussions ('grey zones') and propose next generation studies which may provide answers to them.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A questionnaire on the areas of controversy in managing T2, T3 and T4 rectal cancer was drawn up and distributed to the Rectal-Assisi Think Tank Meeting (ATTM) Expert European Board. Less than 70% agreement on a treatment option was indicated as uncertainty and selected as a 'grey zone'. Topics with large disagreement were selected by the task force group for discussion at the Rectal-ATTM.
RESULTS: The controversial clinical issues that had been identified within cT2-cT3-cT4 needed further investigation. The discussions focused on the role of (1) neoadjuvant therapy and organ preservation on cT2-3a low-middle rectal cancer; (2) neoadjuvant therapy in cT3 low rectal cancer without high risk features; (3) total neoadjuvant therapy, radiotherapy boost and the best chemo-radiotherapy schedule in T4 tumors. A description of each area of investigation and trial proposals are reported.
CONCLUSION: The meeting successfully identified 'grey zones' and, in the light of new evidence, proposed clinical trials for treatment of early, intermediate and advanced stage rectal cancer.