Background: Short-course radiotherapy (SCRT) of 25 Gy in five daily fractions is a recommended strategy in the neoadjuvant setting for resectable locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC), as well as in cases of metastatic disease for local control. There is scarce information regarding the use of SCRT for patients who have received nonoperative management.
Objectives: To describe the characteristics of patients who received treatment with SCRT for LARC and metastatic rectal cancer, toxicity, and the approach after radiation treatment.
Methods: This is a retrospective analysis of all patients who underwent SCRT for rectal cancer at the Alexander Fleming Institute from March 2014 to June 2022.
Results: In total, 44 patients were treated with SCRT. The majority were male (29, 66%), with a median age of 59 years (interquartile range 46–73). Most patients had stage IV disease (26, 59.1%), followed by LARC (18, 40.9%). Most lesions were located in the middle rectum (30, 68%). The majority of LARC patients underwent SCRT followed by consolidation chemotherapy (ChT) (16/18, 89%), while most patients with metastatic disease underwent SCRT followed by consolidation ChT (14/26, 53.8%). A clinical complete response (cCR) was documented in 8/44, 18.2% of patients. Most patients with LARC and cCR were managed by a watch and wait approach (5/18, 27.7%). Local recurrence was observed in LARC cases (2/18, 11.1%). Patients who underwent SCRT following consolidation ChT were more likely to have adverse events (AEs) than those undergoing induction ChT following SCRT (11/30, 36.7% versus 3/12, 25%, p = 0.02)
Conclusion: In a subgroup of patients diagnosed with LARC and treated with SCRT followed by ChT, surgical treatment could be omitted after they achieved a cCR. Local recurrence was similar to that reported in a previous study. SCRT is a reasonable option for local disease control in stage IV disease, yielding low toxicity rates. Therefore, decisions must be made by a multidisciplinary team. Prospective studies are necessary to reach further conclusions.