Neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) is associated with post-operative anastomotic complications in rectal-cancer patients. Anastomosis involving at least one non-irradiated margin reportedly significantly reduces the risk of post-operative anastomotic complications in radiation enteritis. However, the exact scope of radiotherapy on the remaining sigmoid colon remains unknown.


We evaluated the radiation damage of proximally resected colorectal segments in 44 patients with rectal cancer, who received nCRT followed by conventional resection (nCRT-C, n = 21) or proximally extended resection (nCRT-E, n = 23). The segments from another 13 patients undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy (nCT) were used as control. We dissected these samples at a distance of 2 cm between the two adjacent sections. Radiation damage in proximally resected colorectal segments was evaluated using the radiation injury score (RIS) and the concentration and distribution patterns of angiostatin.


Compared to those in the nCT group, the nCRT group showed higher RIS, levels of angiostatin, and proportion of diffuse pattern of angiostatin. With increasing distance from the tumor site, these parameters all gradually decreased; and the differences came to be not significant at the site that is over 20 cm from the tumor. The nCRT-E group showed lower RIS (median: 2 vs 4, P = 0.002) and a greater proportion of non-diffuse angiostatin (87% vs 55%, P = 0.039) at the proximal margins compared with the nCRT-C group.


The severity of the radiation damage of the proximal colon is inversely proportional to the proximal-resection margin length. Little damage was left on the proximal margin that was over 20 cm from the tumor. Removal of an initial length of ≥20 cm from the tumor may be beneficial for rectal-cancer patients after nCRT.

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