Background and objective

Neoadjuvant chemoradiation therapy (NCRT) followed by radical resection has been a common practice for patients with locally advanced rectal cancer. This study aimed to analyse the association of tumor differentiation and prognosis in rectal-cancer patients undergoing NCRT.

Methods

Patients with locally advanced, non-mucinous rectal cancer who underwent NCRT followed by radical resection between 2007 and 2017 were identified from an electronic health record system at the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China). Multivariable logistic regression and multivariate Cox regression were performed to analyse the association of response to NCRT and survival with clinicopathological characteristics of all these patients.

Results

We identified 325 patients (241 males and 84 females; mean age, 54.4 ± 11.2 years) who underwent NCRT followed by radical resection, including 26 (8.0%) with poorly-differentiated rectal cancer, 182 (56.0%) with moderately-differentiated cancer and 117 (36.0%) with well differentiated cancer. Propensity score matching analysis and multivariable logistic regression analysis results showed that tumor differentiation was significantly associated with response to NCRT. In the poor differentiation and non-poor differentiation groups, the 3-year overall survival (OS) rates were 74.6 and 93.5%, respectively, whereas the 3-year local recurrence rates were 18.6 and 3.7%, respectively. Multivariable Cox regression analyses revealed that poor differentiation was an independent risk factor for local recurrence and OS.

Conclusions

Among the patients with locally advanced, non-mucinous rectal cancer, the patients with poorly-differentiated cancer who underwent NCRT had a worse response to NCRT and poorer prognosis than those with moderately- and well-differentiated diseases.

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