eISSN: 2081-2841
ISSN: 1689-832X
Journal of Contemporary Brachytherapy
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vol. 16
Original paper

Contact X-ray brachytherapy (CXB) as a salvage treatment for rectal cancer patients who developed local tumor re-growth after watch-and-wait approach

Ngu Wah Than
1, 2
Mark Pritchard
Carrie. A. Duckworth
David M. Hughes
Helen Wong
Rajaram Sripadam
Arthur Sun Myint
1, 2

  1. Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  2. The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, United Kingdom
  3. Department of Health Data Science, Institute of Population Health, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
J Contemp Brachytherapy 2024; 16, 2: 95–102
Online publish date: 2024/04/23
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A watch-and-wait approach is an alternative to surgery for rectal cancer patients who have achieved a clinical complete response (cCR) following neoadjuvant (chemo)radiotherapy. However, approximately 25-38% of patients experience subsequent local tumor re-growth that requires salvage surgery. We evaluated the effectiveness of contact X-ray brachytherapy (CXB) as an alternative method of salvage therapy for those patients who were either unfit for or refused surgery. Oncological outcomes, tolerability, and feasibility of subsequent surgery for local treatment failure following CXB were reported.

Material and methods:
From 2009-2021, all patients treated with CXB as salvage therapy for local rectal cancer re-growth after watch-and-wait approach at our center were analyzed.

Contact X-ray brachytherapy as a salvage treatment (range, 90-110 Gy) was offered to 56 patients who experienced tumor re-growth following (chemo)radiation and watch-and-wait protocol. Median age was 76 (IQR = 66-83) years. Most patients (82%) had early-stage re-growth (ycT1/ycT2, ycN0), and 18% had more advanced stages (ycT3/ycT4, ycN0). After a median of 37-month follow-up (IQR = 19-53), 48% of patients who had early-stage re-growth achieved a sustained complete remission after CXB compared with 20% of those who had more advanced tumor stages. Disease-free and overall survivals for the whole cohort were 69% and 100% at 1-year, 51% and 82% at 3-year, and 51% and 65% at 5-years. CXB effectively controlled local re-growth-related symptoms. Mild post-CXB side effects occurred in 18% of cases. All (100%) eight patients who developed further local relapse, and 29% of those who had residual disease post-CXB salvage were successfully managed with subsequent surgery.

Contact X-ray brachytherapy offers a new treatment option for patients in this situation whose other therapy options are not suitable for or refused initial surgery. Early local tumor re-growth responded best with minimal treatment-related toxicity and excellent symptom control. Disease-free and overall survival rates were acceptable, and delaying surgical salvage for local re-growth did not compromise patients’ eventual long-term outcomes.


contact X-ray brachytherapy, Papillon, watch-and-wait, neoadjuvant (chemo)radiation, salvage treatment, alternative to surgery

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