The necessity for adjuvant chemotherapy (ACT) in locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC) patients who achieve pathological complete response (pCR) after pre-operative chemoradiotherapy (CRT) is still not identified. We aimed to investigate the therapeutic value of ACT in these patients.


Clinical data were retrospectively collected from 105 consecutive LARC patients who achieved pCR after pre-operative CRT and underwent radical tumor resection between December 2008 and April 2014 in a comprehensive cancer center. Perioperative chemotherapy (CT) was administered by combining oxaliplatin with capecitabine (XELOX regimen). Disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) rates of patients with or without ACT were compared.


Eighty-three (79.0%) patients received ACT and 22 (21.0%) did not. With a median follow-up of 49 months, the ACT group had a significantly higher 3-year DFS rate (92.8 vs 86.4%, p = 0.029) and 3-year OS rate (95.1 vs 86.1%, p = 0.026) than the non-ACT group. In multivariable analyses, the presence of ACT was an independent prognostic factor for DFS (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.271; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.080–0.916; p = 0.036) but not for OS. This benefit was more obvious in patients younger than 60 years via subgroup analysis (adjusted HR: 0.106; 95% CI: 0.019–0.606; p = 0.012).


Oxaliplatin-containing ACT may confer survival benefits to patients with pCR, particularly younger patients. However, the routine use of ACT in patients with pCR needs further validation.

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