Revised tumor and node categorization for rectal cancer based on surveillance, epidemiology, and end results and rectal pooled analysis outcomes

Leonard L. Gunderson, John Milburn Jessup, Daniel J. Sargent, Frederick L. Greene, Andrew Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

160 Scopus citations


Purpose: The sixth edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) rectal cancer staging subdivided stage II into IIA (T3N0) and IIB (T4N0) and stage III into IIIA (T1-2N1M0), IIIB (T3-4N1M0), and IIIC (anyTN2M0). Subsequent analyses supported revised substaging of stage III as a result of improved survival with T1-2N2 versus T3-4N2 and survival of T4N1 more similar to T3-4N2 than T3N1. The AJCC Hindgut Taskforce sought population-based validation that depth of invasion interacts with nodal status to affect survival. Methods: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) population-based data from January 1992 to December 2004 for 35,829 patients with rectal cancer were compared with rectal pooled analysis data (3,791 patients). T4N0 cancers were stratified by tumors that perforate visceral peritoneum (T4a) versus tumors that invade or are adherent to adjacent organs or structures (T4b). N1 and N2 were stratified by number of positive nodes as follows: N1a/N1b (one v two to three nodes) and N2a/N2b (four to six v ≥ seven nodes). Five-year observed and relative survival rates were obtained for each TN category. Results: SEER rectal cancer analyses confirm that T1-2N2 cancers have better prognosis than T3-4N2, T4bN1 have similar prognosis to T4N2, T1-2N1 have similar prognosis to T2N0/T3N0, and T1-2N2a have similar prognosis to T2N0/T3N0 (T1N2a) or T4aN0 (T2N2a). Prognosis for T4a lesions is better than T4b by N category. The number of positive nodes affects prognosis. Conclusion: This SEER population-based rectal cancer analysis validates the rectal pooled analyses and supports the shift of T1-2N2 lesions from IIIC to IIIA or IIIB and T4bN1 from IIIB to IIIC. SEER outcomes support subdividing T4, N1, and N2 and revised substaging of stages II and III. Survival by TN category suggests a complex biologic interaction between depth of invasion and nodal status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-263
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2010
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this