Johanna C. Bendell, MD | Authors

Targeted Therapy in Rectal Cancer

August 01, 2007

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are often overexpressed in colorectal cancer and are associated with inferior outcomes. Based on successful randomized phase III trials, anti-EGFR and anti-VEGF therapeutics have entered clinical practice. Cetuximab (Erbitux), an EGFR-specific antibody, is currently approved in the United States in combination with irinotecan (Camptosar) for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer refractory to irinotecan or as a single agent for patients unable to tolerate irinotecan-based therapy. In retrospective analyses, patients with EGFR-expressing rectal cancer undergoing neoadjuvant radiation therapy had a significantly inferior disease-free survival and lower rates of achieving pathologic complete response. Based on the positive data in metastatic colorectal cancer and synergy with radiation therapy seen in preclinical models, there is a strong rationale to combine cetuximab with neoadjuvant radiation therapy and chemotherapy in rectal cancer. Bevacizumab (Avastin), a VEGF-specific antibody, was the first antiangiogenic agent to be approved in the United States for use in combination with standard chemotherapy in the first- and second-line of treatment in metastatic colorectal cancer. VEGF-targeted therapy may lead to indirect killing of cancer cells by damaging tumor blood vessels, and may increase the radiosensitivity of tumor-associated endothelial cells. VEGF blockade can also "normalize" tumor vasculature, thereby leading to greater tumor oxygenation and drug penetration. This review will address completed and ongoing trials that have established and continue to clarify the effects of these agents in rectal cancer.

Radiation Therapy for Resectable Colon Cancer

February 01, 2006

Colon cancer is a major public health problem. The primary treatment is resection. For patients with early-stage disease, surgery results in excellent survival rates. In contrast, patients with locally advanced tumors arising in "anatomically immobile" segments of large bowel have a less satisfactory outcome, in part secondary to compromised surgical clearance. Patterns-of-failure analyses suggest that for tumors that invade adjacent organs, exhibit perforation or fistula, or are subtotally resected, local failure rates exceed 30%. Multiple single-institution retrospective studies have shown improved local control and possibly survival with the addition of external irradiation and/or intraoperative radiation. In contrast, a recent Intergroup trial failed to show any benefit by the addition of adjuvant radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy. Interpretation of this trial's results is handicapped by low patient accrual. With the advent of novel and more effective systemic therapies for metastatic colon cancer, current and future clinical research will address the efficacy of these agents in the adjuvant setting. Adjuvant radiation therapy should be considered in patients with colon cancer at high risk for local failure.

Current Perspectives on Anal Cancer

April 01, 2003

Anal cancer accounts for 1.5% of digestive system malignancies inthe United States. In the past 30 years, substantial progress has beenmade in understanding the pathophysiology and treatment of thedisease. Anal cancer was once believed to be caused by chronic localinflammation of the perianal area, and treatment was abdominoperinealresection. From epidemiologic and clinical studies, we nowknow that the development of anal cancer is associated with humanpapillomavirus infection and that the disease has a pathophysiologysimilar to that of cervical cancer. Less invasive treatments have alsobeen developed, and the majority of patients with anal cancer can nowbe cured with preservation of the anal sphincter using concurrentexternal-beam radiation therapy and fluorouracil (5-FU)/mitomycin(Mutamycin) chemotherapy. Current areas under investigation includethe incorporation of platinum agents into the chemotherapyregimen and the use of cytologic screening studies for high-riskpopulations.