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Treatment of Locally Recurrent Rectal Carcinoma in Previously (Chemo)Irradiated Patients: A Review

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Local recurrence after rectal cancer treatment occurs in ≈5% to 10% of patients. Neoadjuvant (chemo)radiotherapy for primary rectal cancer renders treatment of recurrent disease more difficult.


The purpose of this study was to review contemporary multimodality therapies, including their outcome, for locally recurrent rectal carcinoma after (chemo)radiotherapy and complete surgical resection of primary rectal cancer.


A comprehensive literature search of PubMed and EMBASE was performed.


All English language articles presenting original patient data regarding treatment and the respective outcome of previously irradiated locally recurrent rectal cancer were included.


All of the treatment modalities for locally recurrent rectal cancer were reviewed.


Primary outcome parameters were local control, metastasis-free survival, and overall survival. Secondary outcome parameters were perioperative morbidity and mortality, and prognostic factors for treatment outcome.


Of 854 studies, 9 studies and 474 patients with locally recurrent rectal carcinoma were included. Various treatment regimens were used, most with curative intent. Reirradiation was composed of (neo-)adjuvant external beam radiotherapy (with or without concurrent chemotherapy), additional intraoperative radiotherapy, or intraoperative radiotherapy only. Surgical technique highly varied, depending on the extent of the lesion. Radiation toxicity, perioperative morbidity, and mortality were generally acceptable. Outcome was better after curative intent treatment, any surgical resection, and R0 resections in particular. Moreover, reirradiation is associated with increased complete resection rates, which in turn positively affected local control and overall survival.


Most studies were retrospectively designed, with highly variable therapies, patient populations, and duration of follow-up.


A complete resection is the most important prognostic factor and should be the goal of treatment in locally recurrent rectal carcinoma. Reirradiation seems safe and of additional value in reaching a complete resection. Considering the available evidence, at present reirradiation should be given on a case-specific basis, with all of the patients entering an international prospective database.
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Keywords: Cancer; Radiation; Rectal; Recurrence; Review; Surgery

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2016

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