Some patients have a complete regression of their rectal cancer after chemoradiotherapy. Rather than receiving surgery, these patients are kept under close observation – called “watch and wait”.

This study aimed to collect data on the safety of ‘watch and wait’ policy (with surgery only if the tumour relapsed), rather than proceeding directly to radical surgery in patients with an apparently complete response to radiotherapy.

It led to the creation of a ‘complete response’ registry – the largest database of its kind for this group of patients in the UK and one of the largest in the world. This is an invaluable tool for future research on a crucial patient group – it even has its own Twitter feed.

The project’s findings showed no change in overall three year disease-free survival for patients managed by the ‘watch and wait’ policy. It also showed a significantly better rate of three year colostomy-free survival.

These results received global attention and were published in the Lancet Oncology journal, playing a significant part in answering this important question.

We believe these findings mean that certain patients in the future will avoid undergoing a major operation and consequently, a permanent colostomy bag. By expanding OnCoRe into a Research Database, this will allow us to further improve our understanding of the outcomes for these patients and inform both patients and clinicians of the best possible treatment pathway at this crucial stage of their treatment. Professor Andrew Renehan
Professor of Cancer Studies and Surgery, University of Manchester

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