Prognostic Implications of Pathological Response to Neoadjuvant Chemoradiation in Pathologic Stage III Rectal Cancer

Georgios Karagkounis, Leo Thai, Adam G. Mace, Homer Wiland, Rish K. Pai, Scott R. Steele, James M. Church, Matthew F. Kalady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the independent prognostic ability of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) tumor regression scores within pathologic stage II and III rectal cancers. BACKGROUND: Response to neoadjuvant chemoradiation (nCRT) has been debated as a biologic surrogate for tumor biology and prognosis in rectal cancer. AJCC regression scores have been shown to correlate with prognosis. METHODS: Patient demographics, tumor characteristics, and AJCC scores (0 = complete response; 1 = isolated tumor cells remaining; 2 = residual cancer outgrown by fibrosis; 3 = extensive residual cancer) were assessed from 545 rectal cancer patients treated by nCRT followed by surgery at a single institution. Patients were classified as responders (score 0-2) or nonresponders (score 3). Survival analyses were performed using Cox proportional hazards models. RESULTS: Of 545 cases, 123 and 182 were pathologic stage II and III, respectively. Median follow-up was 4.9 years. AJCC regression scores were not independently prognostic within stage II cancers. However, AJCC scores were strongly associated with prognosis within stage III cancers (nonresponse 5-year overall survival [OS] 27% vs 67%, P < 0.001). Stage III responders (N = 139, 76.4%) had similar outcomes to stage II (5-year OS 67% vs 74%, P = 0.89). Conversely, stage III nonresponders (N = 43, 23.6%) approached stage IV outcomes (5-year OS 27% vs 18%, P = 0.09). On multivariable analysis, nonresponse (hazard ratio 3.2, 95% confidence interval 1.7-6.2), along with positive margin, abdominoperineal resection, and no adjuvant chemotherapy administration were independently associated with worse OS. CONCLUSIONS: AJCC response score after nCRT is a novel prognostic factor in pathologic stage III rectal cancer and may guide surveillance and adjuvant therapy decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1117-1123
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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