Background: Preoperative chemoradiotherapy (PCRT) followed by surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy is the current standard treatment for stage II/III rectal cancer. However, radiotherapy in the pelvic area is commonly associated with complications such as anastomotic leakage, sexual dysfunction, and fecal incontinence. Recently, the MERCURY study showed that preoperative high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) helped to selectively avoid PCRT. It remains unclear whether PCRT is necessary in patients who can achieve a negative circumferential resection margin (CRM) with surgery alone and in patients with cT1-2N1 or cT3N0 without CRM involvement and lateral lymph node metastasis. This study aims to evaluate the efficacy of upfront radical surgery with total mesorectal excision (TME) followed by adjuvant chemotherapy with folinic acid (or leucovorin), fluorouracil, and oxaliplatin (FOLFOX) versus the current standard treatment in patients with surgically resectable, locally advanced rectal cancer. Methods: This study, named TME-FOLFOX, is a prospective, open-label, multicenter, phase II randomized trial. Patients with locally advanced rectal cancer will be randomized to receive PCRT followed by TME and adjuvant chemotherapy (arm A) or upfront radical surgery with TME followed by adjuvant FOLFOX chemotherapy (arm B). Clinical stage II/III rectal cancer without CRM involvement and lateral lymph node metastasis will be defined using preoperative MRI. The primary endpoint is 3-year disease-free survival (DFS). Secondary endpoints include 5-year DFS, local recurrence rate, systemic recurrence rate, cost-effectiveness, and overall survival. We hypothesized that our experimental group (arm B) will have a 3-year DFS of 75% and a non-inferiority margin of 15%. Discussion: Identifying whether patients require PCRT is one of the critical issues in locally advanced rectal cancer. This study aims to elucidate whether PCRT may not be required for all patients with stage II/III rectal cancer, especially for the MRI-based intermediate-risk group (with cT1-2N1 or cT3N0) without CRM involvement and lateral lymph node metastasis. If the findings indicate that our proposed treatment, which omits PCRT, is non-inferior to the standard treatment, then patients may avoid unnecessary radiation-related toxicity, have a shorter treatment duration, and save on medical costs. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02167321. Registered on 19 June 2014.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Pharmacology (medical)