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Suisui Song MD, Julian C. Hong MS, Siobhan E. McDonnell BS, Albert C. Koong MD, PhD, Bruce D. Minsky MD, Daniel T. Chang MD, Stanley L. Liauw MD
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To evaluate the prognostic significance of the first postsurgery carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer treated with neoadjuvant chemoradiation (nCRT) and total mesorectal excision.
A total of 100 patients underwent nCRT and had baseline and posttreatment CEA levels recorded within 6 months of surgery. The median radiotherapy dose was 50.4 Gy. Eighty-six patients received adjuvant 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy. Prognostic factors were analyzed for possible associations with freedom from failure (FFF) by univariate and multivariate analyses. Median follow-up was 30 months.
The median CEA (ng/ml) levels at baseline before nCRT, after nCRT, and after total mesorectal excision were 3.6, 1.7, and 1.3, respectively. Pathologic complete response was observed in 22%. FFF at 36 months was 78%. Local failure and distant failure occurred in 4 and 20% of the patients, respectively. On univariate analysis, pathologic complete response, margin status, and both pretreatment and postsurgery CEA levels were associated with recurrence (all P < 0.05). On multivariate analysis, pathologic complete response (P < 0.007), margin status (P < 0.001), and postsurgery CEA level (P = 0.003), but not baseline CEA level (P = 0.2), were found to be associated with recurrence.
After nCRT for rectal cancer, postsurgery CEA level may have more prognostic value than pretreatment level. Patients with a postsurgery CEA level of >2.5 ng/ml have higher rates of recurrence and may warrant closer surveillance.
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