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.

Chemoradiation, Functional outcomes, Older patients, Oncological outcomes, Rectal cancer, Watch-and-wait approach,
European Journal of Surgical Oncology
Department of Surgery

Haak, H.E. (Hester E.), Maas, M. (Monique), Lambregts, D.M.J. (Doenja M.J.), Beets-Tan, R.G, Beets, G.L, Melenhorst, J. (Jarno), … Hoff, C. (2020). Is watch and wait a safe and effective way to treat rectal cancer in older patients?. European Journal of Surgical Oncology. doi:10.1016/j.ejso.2020.01.005