Article Abstract

Pathologic complete response and disease-free survival are not surrogate endpoints for 5-year survival in rectal cancer: an analysis of 22 randomized trials

Authors: Fausto Petrelli, Karen Borgonovo, Mary Cabiddu, Mara Ghilardi, Veronica Lonati, Sandro Barni


Background: We performed a literature-based analysis of randomized clinical trials to assess the pathologic complete response (pCR) (ypT0N0 after neoadjuvant therapy) and 3-year disease-free survival (DFS) as potential surrogate endpoints for 5-year overall survival (OS) in rectal cancer treated with neoadjuvant (chemo)radiotherapy (CT)RT.
Methods: A systematic literature search of PubMed, EMBASE, the Web of Science, SCOPUS, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library was performed. Treatment effects on 3-year DFS and 5-year OS were expressed as rates of patients alive (%), and those on pCR as differences in pCR rates (∆pCR%). A weighted regression analysis was performed at individual- and trial-level to test the association between treatment effects on surrogate (∆pCR% and ∆3yDFS) and the main clinical outcome (∆5yOS).
Results: Twenty-two trials involving 10,050 patients, were included in the analysis. The individual level surrogacy showed that the pCR% and 3-year DFS were poorly correlated with 5-year OS (R=0.52; 95% CI, 0.31–0.91; P=0.002; and R=0.60; 95% CI, 0.36–1; P=0.002). The trial-level surrogacy analysis confirmed that the two treatment effects on surrogates (∆pCR% and ∆3yDFS) are not strong surrogates for treatment effects on 5-year OS % (R=0.2; 95% CI, −0.29–0.78; P=0.5 and R=0.64; 95% CI, 0.29–1; P=0.06). These findings were confirmed in neoadjuvant CTRT studies but not in phase III trials were 3-year DFS could still represent a valid surrogate.
Conclusions: This analysis does not support the use of pCR and 3-year DFS% as appropriate surrogate endpoints for 5-year OS% in patients with rectal cancer treated with neoadjuvant therapy.