Is watch and wait a safe and effective way to treat rectal cancer in older patients?

the Dutch Watch-and-Wait Consortium

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The aim was assess the oncological and functional outcome of the watch-and-wait (W&W) approach in older patients with a clinical (near)complete response after neoadjuvant treatment for rectal cancer. Material and methods: Patients were included in a W&W-approach (2004–2019) when digital rectal examination, endoscopy and MRI showed a (near)clinical complete response. Patients underwent endoscopy and MRI every 3 months during the first year, and 6-monthly thereafter. Patients aged ≥75 and ≥ 2 years of follow-up (FU) were selected. Oncological outcomes were assessed with Kaplan-Meier curves. Functional outcome was assessed with colostomy-free rate, Vaizey incontinence score, low anterior resection syndrome-score and International Prostate Syndrome Score. Results: 43/304 (14%) of patients in a W&W-approach met the inclusion criteria. Median FU was 37 (24–109) months. 5/43(12%) developed a local regrowth. All were treated surgically, with one patient experiencing a pelvic failure. Distant metastases occurred in 3/43 patients and 4 patients died, 3 of whom not related to rectal cancer. The 3-year local regrowth-free rate was 88%, 3-year non-regrowth disease-free survival 91%, overall survival 97% and 3-year colostomy-free rate 93%. Overall, the bowel- and urinary dysfunction scores at 3, 12 and 24 months indicated good continence, no or minor LARS and moderate urinary problems. Conclusion: W&W for older patients with a clinical (near) complete response appears to be a safe alternative to a total mesorectal excision (TME), with a very high pelvic control rate, and few rectal cancer related deaths. Most patients can avoid major surgery and a definitive colostomy, and have a reasonable anorectal and urinary function.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-362
JournalEuropean Journal of Surgical Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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