The standard treatment for stage II/III rectal cancer is chemotherapy and radiation therapy (“chemoradiation”) followed by surgery to remove the rectum. Patients may have additional chemotherapy given after surgery to further reduce their risk of cancer recurrence and to increase the rate of response of the primary tumor.
In this study, researchers want to see if giving the additional chemotherapy before surgery, before or after the chemoradiation, is more effective than the standard treatment for patients with previously untreated stage II or III rectal cancer, and if it may even be able to spare some patients from surgery to remove the rectum. Patients in this study will be randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy followed by chemoradiation, or chemoradiation followed by chemotherapy.
Patients whose tumors disappear with either approach will not have surgery and will be monitored. Patients whose tumors did not respond significantly to chemotherapy and chemoradiation will go on to have rectal surgery.