Trends and Variation in the Use of Radiotherapy in Non-metastatic Rectal Cancer: a 14-year Nationwide Overview from the Netherlands

A.-S.E. Verrijssen*, J. Evers, M. van der Sangen, Sabine Siesling, M.J. Aarts, H. Struikmans, M.C.W.M. Bloemers, J. Burger, V. Lemmens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims: This study describes nationwide primary radiotherapy utilisation trends for non-metastasised rectal cancer in the Netherlands between 2008 and 2021. In 2014, both colorectal cancer screening and a new guideline specifying prognostic risk groups for neoadjuvant treatment were implemented.

Materials and methods: Patients with non-metastasised rectal cancer in 2008–2021 (n = 37 510) were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry and classified into prognostic risk groups. Treatment was studied over time and age. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were carried out to identify factors associated with (i) radiotherapy versus chemoradiotherapy use for intermediate rectal cancer and (ii) chemoradiotherapy without versus with surgery for locally advanced rectal cancer.

Results: For early rectal cancer, the use of neoadjuvant radiotherapy decreased (15% to 5% between 2008 and 2021), whereas the use of endoscopic resections increased (8% in 2015, 17% in 2021). In intermediate-risk rectal cancer, neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (43% until 2011, 25% in 2015) shifted to radiotherapy (42% in 2008, 50% in 2015), the latter being most often applied in older patients. In locally advanced rectal cancer, the use of chemoradiotherapy without surgery increased (2–4% in 2008–2013, 17% in 2019–2021). Both neoadjuvant treatment in intermediate disease and omission of surgery following chemoradiotherapy in locally advanced disease varied with increasing age (odds ratio>75vs<50: 2.17, 95% confidence interval 1.54–3.06) and treatment region (Southwest and Northwest odds ratio 0.63, 95% confidence interval 0.42–0.93 and odds ratio 0.65, 95% confidence interval 0.44–0.95, respectively, compared with the North).

Conclusion: Treatment patterns in non-metastasised rectal cancer significantly changed over time. Effects of both the national screening programme and the new treatment guideline were apparent, as well as a paradigm shift towards organ preservation (watch-and-wait). Observed regional variations may indicate adoption differences regarding new treatment strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-232
Number of pages12
JournalClinical oncology
Issue number4
Early online date20 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • 2024 OA procedure
  • National cancer registry
  • Radiotherapy
  • Rectal cancer
  • Treatment trends
  • Dutch overview


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