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Treatment of Microsatellite-Unstable Rectal Cancer in Sporadic and Hereditary Settings

AbstractMicrosatellite instability is rare in rectal cancer and associated with younger age of onset and Lynch syndrome. All rectal cancers should be tested for microsatellite instability prior to treatment decisions. Patients with microsatellite instability are relatively resistant to chemotherapy. However, recent small studies have shown dramatic response with neoadjuvant immunotherapy. Patients with Lynch syndrome have a hereditary predisposition to cancer and thus an elevated risk of metachronous cancer. Therefore, while “watch and wait” is a well-established practice for sporadic rectal cancers that obtain a complete clinical response after chemoradiation, its safety in patients with Lynch syndrome has not yet been defined. The extent of surgery for patients with Lynch syndrome and rectal cancer is controversial and there is significant debate as to the relative advantages of a segmental proctectomy with postoperative endoscopic surveillance versus a therapeutic and prophylactic total proctocolectomy. Surgical decision making for the patient with Lynch syndrome and rectal cancer is complex and demands a multidisciplinary approach, taking into account both patient- and tumor-specific factors. Neoadjuvant immunotherapy show great promise in the treatment of these patients, and further maturation of data from prospective trials will likely change the current treatment paradigm. Patients with Lynch syndrome and rectal cancer who do not undergo total proctocolectomy require yearly surveillance colonoscopies and should consider chemoprophylaxis with aspirin.