Background and Objectives: Recent data suggest that good responders to preoperative chemoradiation (CRT) have a favorable prognosis in rectal cancer patients. The aim of this study was to investigate the predictive value of serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels for the tumor response to preoperative CRT in rectal cancer patients. Methods: The study comprised 141 rectal adenocarcinoma patients who underwent preoperative radiotherapy with 5-fluorouracil (FU) based chemotherapy, followed by radical surgery. The staging workup was consisted of endorectal ultrasound, abdominopelvic computed tomography scan, or magnetic resonance imaging. The outcome parameters were cancer-specific survival and disease-free survival. Pre-CRT clinicopathologic features, including age, gender, location of the tumor, clinical tumor (cT) classification, clinical nodal (cN) classification, and serum CEA levels were investigated as possible predictors for the response to preoperative CRT. Results: Pathologic complete or near complete responses (good responders, GR) occurred in 26 (19%) patients, while partial or no response (poor responders, PR) occurred in the remaining 115 (81%) patients. GR showed better cancer-specific survival (P = 0.028) and disease-free survival rates (P = 0.011) than PR. Univariate analysis revealed that positive cN and elevated (>5 ng/ml) pre-CRT serum CEA levels are associated with poor tumor response to preoperative CRT. Using logistic regression analysis, elevated pre-CRT serum CEA levels were the only significant predictor for the poor response to CRT (Odd ratio = 2.876, 95% confidence interval = 1.04-7.46, P = 0.041). Conclusions: Our data suggest that elevated pre-CRT serum CEA levels are associated with poor tumor response to CRT. Therefore, pre-CRT serum CEA levels provide useful information about tumor response to preoperative CRT in rectal cancer patients.
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