According to new research, radiation alone may be enough to treat some patients with rectal cancer. Researchers from the Centre Antoine-Lacassagne in France studied 60 patients between 1985 and 1999. Typical treatment for rectal cancer includes surgery, but for some patients surgery is not an option.
In this study, all patients had rectal cancer, but were not eligible for surgery to remove it. A combination radiation therapy was used, which included radiation with contact X-rays, followed by external beam radiation. After four to six weeks, an iridium implant delivered a completion dose to the tumor. No chemotherapy was given to any of the patients.
Researchers found the five-year overall survival rate was 60 percent and, for patients under age 75, it was nearly 70 percent. Rectal function was maintained in 90 percent of the patients and no severe toxicity was observed. Jean-Pierre Gerard, M.D., from the Centre Antoine-Lacassagne, says, "Surgery remains, without doubt, the main treatment of rectal adenocarcinoma. Nevertheless, in inoperable patients, combined radiation therapy should be considered."