Medline: 10699069

The fulltext Journal of the National Cancer Institute 92(5): 388-396, 2000. is available online for subscribers.

Randomized trial of postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy for carcinoma of the rectum: NSABP protocol R-02.

Wolmark N, Wieand HS, Hyams DM, et al.


The conviction that postoperative radiotherapy and chemotherapy represent an acceptable standard of care for patients with Dukes' B (stage II) and Dukes' C (stage III) carcinoma of the rectum evolved in the absence of data from clinical trials designed to determine whether the addition of radiotherapy results in improved disease-free survival and overall survival. This study was carried out to address this issue. An additional aim was to determine whether leucovorin (LV)-modulated 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is superior to the combination of 5-FU, semustine, and vincristine (MOF) in men.

Patients and Methods:
Eligible patients (n = 694) with Dukes' B or C carcinoma of the rectum were enrolled in National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) Protocol R-02 from September 1987 through December 1992 and were followed. They were randomly assigned to receive either postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy alone (n = 348) or chemotherapy with postoperative radiotherapy (n = 346). All female patients (n = 287) received 5-FU plus LV chemotherapy; male patients received either MOF (n = 207) or 5-FU plus LV (n = 200). Primary analyses were carried out by use of a stratified log-rank statistic; P values are two-sided.

The average time on study for surviving patients is 93 months as of September 30, 1998. Postoperative radiotherapy resulted in no beneficial effect on disease-free survival (P =.90) or overall survival (P =.89), regardless of which chemotherapy was utilized, although it reduced the cumulative incidence of locoregional relapse from 13% to 8% at 5-year follow-up (P =.02). Male patients who received 5-FU plus LV demonstrated a statistically significant benefit in disease-free survival at 5 years compared with those who received MOF (55% versus 47%; P =.009) but not in 5-year overall survival (65% versus 62%; P =.17).

The addition of postoperative radiation therapy to chemotherapy in Dukes' B and C rectal cancer did not alter the subsequent incidence of distant disease, although there was a reduction in locoregional relapse when compared with chemotherapy alone.

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