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Long-course chemoradiation plus concurrent/sequential PD-1 blockade as neoadjuvant treatment for MMR-status-unscreened locally advanced rectal cancer: protocol of a multicentre, phase 2, randomised controlled trial (the POLAR-STAR trial)

BMJ Open. 2023 Sep 12;13(9):e069499. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-069499.


INTRODUCTION: Recent preclinical studies have discovered unique synergism between radiotherapy and immune checkpoint inhibitors, which has already brought significant survival benefit in lung cancer. In locally advanced rectal cancer (LARC), neoadjuvant radiotherapy plus immune checkpoint inhibitors have also achieved surprisingly high pathological complete response (pCR) rates even in proficient mismatch-repair patients. As existing researches are all phase 2, single-cohort trials, we aim to conduct a randomised, controlled trial to further clarify the efficacy and safety of this novel combination therapy.

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Eligible patients with LARC are randomised to three arms (two experiment arms, one control arm). Patients in all arms receive long-course radiotherapy plus concurrent capecitabine as neoadjuvant therapy, as well as radical surgery. Distinguishingly, patients in arm 1 also receive anti-PD-1 (Programmed Death 1) treatment starting at Day 8 of radiation (concurrent plan), and patients in arm 2 receive anti-PD-1 treatment starting 2 weeks after completion of radiation (sequential plan). Tislelizumab (anti-PD-1) is scheduled to be administered at 200 mg each time for three consecutive times, with 3-week intervals. Randomisation is stratified by different participating centres, with a block size of 6. The primary endpoint is pCR rate, and secondary endpoints include neoadjuvant-treatment-related adverse event rate, as well as disease-free and overall survival rates at 2, 3 and 5 years postoperation. Data will be analysed with an intention-to-treat approach.

ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This protocol has been approved by the institutional ethical committee of Beijing Friendship Hospital (the primary centre) with an identifying serial number of 2022-P2-050-01. Before publication to peer-reviewed journals, data of this research will be stored in a specially developed clinical trial database.


PMID:37699634 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2022-069499

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