Staging and therapy response in rectal cancer

Sammanfattning: Every year, around 2,200 individuals are diagnosed with rectal cancer in Sweden. As a result of better tumour staging using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), pre-operative radiotherapy (with or without chemotherapy), and improved surgery, outcome has improved substantially during the past few decades. Today less than 5% of patients experience a local recurrence. Treatment response is highly variable, up to 30% of patients have a complete remission (CR) after pre-treatment while others do not benefit from the treatment. The aim of this thesis was to investigate factors associated with CR in rectal cancer as accurate response prediction already at the time of diagnosis could enable a personalized treatment approach. For this purpose, an unselected rectal cancer cohort of approximately 1,200 patients diagnosed between 2010-2018 was built. Paper I provides a description of tumour stages and other MRI characteristics required for the treatment decision in the rectal cancer cohort. In this unselected patient population, most tumours belonged to the risk groups with intermediate or high risk of recurrence and are thus recommended to pre-treatment.In Paper II, the proportions of patients recommended pre-treatment according to different guidelines were investigated to better understand the wide variability in treatment seen worldwide. This study concluded that between 38% and 77% of non-metastatic patients are presently recommended pre-operative treatment according to 15 international guidelines, when strictly applied to our non-selected rectal cancer cohort.   To achieve a more personalized treatment approach and a stricter use of pre-treatment, predictive factors of tumour remission are needed. In Paper III an evaluation of the predictive capacity of all clinical and pathological factors used in the staging of rectal cancer prior to treatment decision was done. In Paper IV a combination of clinical and sequencing data was used in analyses to further assess associations with CR and which factors impact prognosis. Tumour size, stage, tumour marker CEA and treatment were predictive of CR. Moreover, genetic factors such as mutated SMAD4 and SYNE1 were associated with CR but further investigations are needed to determine clinical relevance. Mutated KRAS was an independent predictor of non-CR. BRAF V600E mutation increased the risk of recurrence. 

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