Current Practice Patterns in Locally Advanced Rectal Cancer at Academic Institutions: A National Survey Among Radiation Oncologists, Medical Oncologists, and Colorectal Surgeons

Published:September 16, 2022DOI:


      • Among academic radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, and colorectal surgeons, the traditional regimen of long-course chemoradiation, surgery, and adjuvant chemotherapy is now infrequently recommended for locally advanced rectal cancer.
      • Total neoadjuvant therapy has been widely adopted for locally advanced node positive rectal tumors with variable patterns of care with respect to sequencing of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
      • Fractionation with long-course chemoradiation remains the majority; however, short-course radiotherapy is gaining acceptance, notably for mid- and upper rectal tumors.
      • Non-operative management after a clinical complete response in low rectal tumors has gained traction, transforming locally advanced rectal cancer from a once classically perceived surgical disease.



      To assess the current treatment patterns in locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) among radiation oncologists (RO), medical oncologists (MO), and colorectal surgeons (SR) specializing in gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies at academic institutions.

      Materials and Methods

      An online survey consisting of 7 LARC clinical vignettes was distributed to GI specialists practicing at ACGME accredited academic institutions. Treatment paradigms consisted of long-course chemoradiation (LC-CRT) and short-course (SCRT) radiotherapy, chemotherapy (CHT), and surgery. The survey was open from January to April 2021.


      Thirty-six RO, 14 MO and 21 SR (71/508 physicians) replied resulting in a response rate of 14.0%. For low rectal node positive tumors, 88.7% of primary recommendations incorporated TNT (73.1% LC-CRT, 26.9% SCRT). NOM was preferred by 41.3% if a clinical complete response (cCR) was achieved. The presence of high-risk features led 95.8% of physicians to employ TNT (79.4% LC-CRT, 20.6% SCRT). For a cT3N1-2 mid-rectal tumor without high-risk features, 85.9% would primarily recommend TNT (56.6% LC-CRT, 43.4% SCRT). For a cT4bN2a mid-rectal tumor without high-risk features, 97.2% of primary recommendations included TNT (76.9% LC-CRT, 23.1% SCRT).


      Among academic RO, MO, and SR, the traditional regimen of LC-CRT, surgery, and adjuvant CHT is now infrequently recommended for LARC. TNT has been widely adopted for locally advanced node positive rectal tumors with variable patterns of care with respect to sequencing of CHT and RT. Fractionation with LC-CRT remained the majority. Non-operative management after a cCR in low rectal tumors has gained traction transforming LARC from a once classically perceived surgical disease.


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