Intraoperative electron and external beam irradiation with or without 5- fluorouracil and maximum surgical resection for previously unirradiated, locally recurrent colorectal cancer

Leonard L. Gunderson, Heidi Nelson, James A. Martenson, Stephen Cha, Michael Haddock, Richard Devine, Jennifer M. Fieck, Bruce Wolff, Roger Dozois, Michael J. O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


PURPOSE/OBJECTIVE: 1) Disease control and survival will be evaluated for treatment regimens containing intraoperative electron irradiation (IOERT) for locally recurrent, previously unirradiated colorectal cancers. 2) Various prognostic factors will be evaluated to determine whether they have an impact on disease control or survival. MATERIALS AND METHODS: From April 1981 through August 1995, 123 patients with previously unirradiated locally recurrent colorectal cancers received IOERT at our institution, usually as a supplement to external beam irradiation (EBRT) and maximum resection. All received EBRT with or without concomitant 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy. Forty-five Gy in 25 fractions was given to the tumor or tumor bed plus 3-cm to 9-cm margins in 121 of 123 patients and a boost of 5.4 to 9 Gy in 3 to 5 fractions to the tumor plus 2-cm margins. Maximum resection was performed before or after EBRT. IOERT doses ranged from 10 to 20 Gy in 119 of 123 patients, with dose dependent on resection margins (130 fields in 123 patients). Maintenance chemotherapy was given to only two patients. RESULTS: Disease relapse and survival were evaluated. Central failure (within the IOERT field) was documented in 13 of 123 patients (11 percent) with a five- year actuarial rate of 26 percent. Local relapse (in EBRT field) occurred in 24 patients (20 percent); five year rate was 37 percent. Distant metastases occurred in 66 patients (54 percent); five-year rate was 72 percent. Median survival was 28 months, with overall survival at two, three, and five years of 62, 39, and 20 percent, respectively. Tolerance data suggest a relationship between IOERT dose and incidence of Grade 2 or 3 neuropathy (≤ 12.5 Gy, 2 of 29 or 7 percent; ≤ 15 Gy, 19 of 101 or 19 percent; P = 0.12). Survival and disease control were analyzed as a function of potential prognostic factors. None of the prognostic factors had a significant impact on disease control or survival. Although there was a trend for reduction in local relapse rates with gross total vs. partial resection, this neither achieved statistical significance nor translated into improved survival. Patients with gross residual disease after maximum resection had three-year and five-year survival rates of 36 and 18 percent, respectively, which paralleled results for patients with gross total resection at 41 and 24 percent, respectively. CONCLUSION: Encouraging trends for improved local control with or without survival exist in separate locally recurrent colorectal IOERT analyses from our institution and other institutions. Therefore, continued evaluation of IOERT approaches seems warranted. Disease control within the IOERT and external fields is decreased when the surgeon is unable to accomplish a gross total resection. Therefore, it is reasonable to consistently add 5-fluorouracil or other dose modifiers during EBRT and to evaluate the use of dose modifiers in conjunction with IOERT (sensitizers and hyperthermia). In view of high systemic failure rates of >50 percent in patients with locally recurrent disease, more routine use of systemic therapy is indicated as a component of IOERT-containing treatment regimens (use existent chemotherapy and/or develop effective immunotherapy and gene transfer therapy). Even with locally recurrent lesions, the aggressive multimodality approaches including IOERT have resulted in improved local control and long-term survival rates of 20 percent vs. an expected 5 percent with conventional techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1395
Number of pages17
JournalDiseases of the colon and rectum
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1996


  • Colorectal irradiation
  • Intraoperative irradiation
  • Locally recurrent lesions
  • Previously unirradiated recurrent colorectal cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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