Purpose of review: To discuss the recent developments of multimodal treatment for patients with local advanced rectal cancer, including incorporation of new chemotherapeutic and targeted agents, and the optimal sequence and timing of treatment components.
Recent findings: Five randomized trials have been completed to determine whether the addition of oxaliplatin to preoperative, fluorouracil-based chemoradiotherapy (CRT) offers an advantage compared to single-agent fluorouracil CRT. Early results from the ACCORD 12, STAR-01, and NSAPB R-04 trials did not confirm a significant improvement of early efficacy endpoints with the addition of oxaliplatin, whereas the German CAO/ARO/AIO-04 did. Most of the phase II trials incorporating cetuximab into CRT reported disappointingly low rates of pathologic complete response (pCR); the combination of CRT with VEGF inhibition showed encouraging pCR rates; however, it was associated with increased surgical complications. Novel clinical trials address the role of induction chemotherapy, of delayed, minimal or omitted surgery following CRT, or the omission of radiotherapy for selected patients.
Summary: At this time, the use of oxaliplatin or targeted agents as component of multimodality treatment for rectal cancer outside of a clinical trial is not recommended. The inclusion of different treatment options, according to tumor stage, location, imaging features, and response, will render the multimodal treatment approach of rectal cancer more risk-adapted.