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Joseph M. Herman, MD, MSc


Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy for Anal Cancer: An Obvious yet Complicated Transition

August 15, 2010

Primary surgery with an abdominoperineal resection (APR) was historically the standard of care for localized anal squamous cell carcinoma. APR achieved 40%-70% survival rates at five years, with local failures from 27%-47%.[1,2] With modern technology and radiation dose escalation, external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) studies have improved complete response rates, decreased morbidity, and improved sphincter preservation rates. Nigro et al added 5-fluorouracil (5FU) and mitomycin C (MMC) to concurrent EBRT [3,4] and impressive complete response rates inspired other groups to investigate the role of chemotherapy as a component of sphincter-preserving therapy. The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) and United Kingdom Coordinating Committee on Cancer Research (UKCCCR) studies reported improved local control and colostomy-free survival when chemotherapy (5FU/MMC) was administered in conjunction with radiation.[5,6] The five-year survival rate for patients receiving standard chemoradiation approaches 70%; however, 20%-40% experience grade 3-4 toxicity, and administration with MMC causes profound hematologic toxicity.