Patterns of recurrence in anal cancer: A detailed analysis

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Background: Anal cancer is a rare disease, which might be the reason for the "one size fits all" approach still used for radiotherapy target contouring. To refine and individualize future guidelines, detailed and contemporary pattern of recurrence studies are needed. Methods: Consecutive anal cancer patients, all treated with curative intent intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), were retrospectively studied (n = 170). Data was extracted from medical records and radiological images. Radiotherapy planning CT's and treatment plans were reviewed, and recurrences were mapped and categorized according to radiation dose. Results: The mean dose to the primary tumor was 59.0 Gy. With a median follow-up of 50 months (range 14-117 months), 5-year anal cancer specific survival was 86.1%. Only 1 of 20 local recurrences was located outside the high dose (CTVT) volume. More patients experienced a distant recurrence (n = 34; 20.0%) than a locoregional recurrence (n = 24; 14.1%). Seven patients (4.2%) had a common iliac and/or para-aortic (CI/PA) recurrence. External iliac lymph node involvement (P = 0.04), and metastases in ≥3 inguinal or pelvic lymph node regions (P = 0.02) were associated with a 15-18% risk of CI/PA recurrence. Following chemoradiotherapy, 6 patients with recurrent or primary metastatic CI/PA lymph nodes were free of recurrence at last follow-up. The overall rate of ano-inguinal lymphatic drainage (AILD) recurrence was 2 of 170 (1.2%), and among patients with inguinal metastases at initial diagnosis it was 2 of 65 (3.1%). Conclusions: We conclude that other measures than increased margins around the primary tumor are needed to improve local control. Furthermore, metastatic CI/PA lymph nodes, either at initial diagnosis or in the recurrent setting, should be considered potentially curable. Patients with certain patterns of metastatic pelvic lymph nodes might be at an increased risk of harboring tumor cells also in the CI/PA lymph nodes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125
JournalRadiation Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 2020 May 27

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cancer and Oncology

Free keywords

  • Anal cancer
  • Anal carcinoma
  • Ano-inguinal lymphatic drainage
  • Para-aortic
  • Radiotherapy
  • Recurrence


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