Impact of T and N stage and treatment on survival and relapse in adjuvant rectal cancer: A pooled analysis

Leonard L. Gunderson, Daniel J. Sargent, Joel E. Tepper, Norman Wolmark, Michael J. O'Connell, Mirsada Begovic, Cristine Allmer, Linda Colangelo, Steven R. Smalley, Daniel G. Haller, James A. Martenson, Robert J. Mayer, Tyvin A. Rich, Jaffer A. Ajani, John S. MacDonald, Christopher G. Willett, Richard M. Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

349 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine survival and relapse rates by T and N stage and treatment method in five randomized phase III North American rectal adjuvant studies. Patients and Methods: Data were pooled from 3,791 eligible patients enrolled onto North Central Cancer Treatment Group (NCCTG) 79-47-51, NCCTG 86-47-51, US Gastrointestinal Intergroup 0114, National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) R01, and NSABP R02. Surgery alone (S) was the treatment arm in 179 patients. The remaining patients received adjuvant treatment as follows: irradiation (RT) alone (n = 281), RT + fluorouracil (FU) ± semustine bolus chemotherapy (CT; n = 779), RT + protracted venous infusion CT (n = 325), RT + FU ± leucovorin or levamisole bolus CT (n = 1,695), or CT alone (n = 532). Five-year follow-up was available in 94% of surviving patients, and 8-year follow-up, in 62%. Results: Overall (OS) and disease-free survival were dependent on TN stage, NT stage, and treatment method. Even among N2 patients, T substage influenced 5-year OS (T1-2, 67%; T3, 44%; T4, 37%; P < .001). Three risk groups of patients were defined: (1) intermediate (T1-2/N1, T3/N0), (2) moderately high (T1-2/N2, T3/N1, T4/N0), and (3) high (T3/N2, T4/N1, T4/N2). For intermediate-risk patients, those receiving S plus CT had 5-year OS rates of 85% (T1-2/N1) and 84% (T3/N0), which was similar to results with S plus RT plus CT (T1-2/N1, 78% to 83%; T3/N0, 74% to 80%). For moderately high-risk lesions, 5-year OS ranged from 43% to 70% with S plus CT, and 44% to 80% with S plus RT plus CT. For high-risk lesions, 5-year OS ranged from 25% to 45% with S plus CT, and 29% to 57% with S plus RT plus CT. Conclusion: Different treatment strategies may be indicated for intermediate-risk versus moderately high- or high-risk patients based on differential survival rates and rates of relapse. Use of trimodality treatment for all patients with intermediate-risk lesions may be excessive, since S plus CT resulted in 5-year OS of approximately 85%; however, 5-year disease-free survival rates with S plus CT were 78% (T1-2/N1) and 69%(T3/N0), indicating room for improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1785-1796
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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