International Journal of Colorectal Disease

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 113–121 | Cite as

Is adjuvant chemotherapy necessary for locally advanced rectal cancer patients with pathological complete response after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and radical surgery? A systematic review and meta-analysis

  • Bin Ma
  • Yupeng Ren
  • Yue Chen
  • Bo Lian
  • Peng Jiang
  • Yongmin Li
  • Yan Shang
  • Qingkai MengEmail author
Original Article



Current clinical guidelines recommended the routine use of adjuvant chemotherapy for locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) patients. However, the effects of adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with pathological complete response (pCR) after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and radical surgery showed discrepancies in different investigations.


A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted using PubMed, Embase and Web of Science databases. All original comparative studies published in English that were related to adjuvant versus non-adjuvant chemotherapy for LARC patients with pCR were included.


A total of 6 studies based on 18 centres or databases involving 2948 rectal cancer patients with pCR (adjuvant group = 1324, non-adjuvant group = 1624) were included in our overall analysis. Based on our meta-analysis, LARC patients with pCR who received adjuvant chemotherapy showed a significantly improved overall survival (OS) when compared to patients with observation (HR = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.46–0.90, P = 0.01). In addition, investigations focused on this issue based on the National Cancer Database (NCDB) were systematically reviewed in our current study. Evidence from all three analyses demonstrated that LARC patients with clinical nodal positive disease that achieved pCR might benefit the most from additional adjuvant chemotherapy.


Our meta-analysis indicated that adjuvant chemotherapy is associated with improved OS in LARC patients with pCR after neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and radical surgery.


Locally advanced rectal cancer Pathological complete response Adjuvant chemotherapy Meta-analysis 



We thank Pengliang Wang from the department of Surgical Oncology of First Hospital of China Medical University for the statistical assistance and guidance.


This work was funded by Natural Science Foundation of Liaoning Province (No. 20180550485).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

No informed consent.

Disclosure statement

The authors have nothing to disclose.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Colorectal SurgeryCancer Hospital of China Medical University, Liaoning Cancer Hospital and InstituteShenyangPeople’s Republic of China

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