Surgery of the primary in stage IV colorectal cancer with unresectable metastases
Surgery plays an important role in the treatment of patients with limited metastatic disease of colorectal cancer (CRC). Long term survival and cure is reported in 20-50 of highly selected patients with oligometastatic disease who underwent surgery. This paper describes the role of surgery of the primary tumour in patients with unresectable stage IV colorectal cancer. Owing to the increased efficacy of chemotherapeutic regimens in stage IV colorectal cancer, complications from unresected primary tumours are relatively infrequent. The risk of emergency surgical intervention is less than 15 in patients with synchronous metastatic disease who are treated with chemotherapy. Therefore, there is a tendency among surgeons not to resect the primary tumour in case of unresectable metastases. However, it is suggested that resection of the primary tumour in case of unresectable metastatic disease might influence overall survival. All studies described in the literature (n = 24) are non-randomised and the majority is single-centre and retrospective of nature. Most studies are in favour of resection of the primary tumour in patients with symptomatic lesions. In asymptomatic patients the results are less clear, although median overall survival seems to be improved in resected patients in the majority of studies. The major drawback of all these studies is that primarily patients with a better performance status and better prognosis (less metastatic sites involved) are being operated on. Another limitation of these studies is that few if any data on the use of systemic therapy are presented, which makes it difficult to assess the relative contribution of resection on outcome. Prospective studies on this topic are warranted, and are currently being planned. Surgery of the primary tumour in patients with synchronous metastasised CRC is controversial, although data from the literature suggest that resection might be a positive prognostic factor for survival. Therefore prospective studies on the value of resection in this setting are required.