adiation therapy before surgery increases survival without increasing
long-term complications for patients with rectal cancer, according
to a 10-year study at Tufts University presented at the recent
meeting of the American Radium Society. Resection alone was the
standard treatment for these patients when the study began in
The overall 10-year survival rate for patients treated with radiation
therapy plus resection was 74%, said Dr. William P. Reed, Professor
of Surgery at Tufts University School of Medicine at the Western
Campus in Springfield, Massachusetts. The 10-year survival rate
was 41% for patients who underwent resection alone, he said.
"The patients who had their tumor completely removed (about
75% of the 149 patients), had even better survival rates, Dr.
Reed told the American Radium Society at its annual meeting in
Paris. The 10-year survival rate for patients in this subgroup
was 80% for those treated with radiation and surgery, and 45%
for those treated with surgery alone, he said.
In addition, patients who had radiation therapy were about a third
less likely to have their disease return locally, compared to
patients treated by surgery alone, according to Dr. Reed.
Physicians have been reluctant to treat these patients with full-dose
radiation therapy before surgery because they were concerned that
additional complications could occur, said Dr. Reed, who is also
Director of Surgical Oncology at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
The study found that long-term complications from radiation therapy
were minimal,he said.