Survival paradox between stage IIB/C and stage IIIA colon cancer: is it time to revise the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system?

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Surgical Endoscopy


INTRODUCTION: A survival paradox between T4N0 (Stage IIB/IIC) and Stage IIIA colon cancer exists, even after adjusting for adequate lymph node (LN) retrieval and receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy (C). We conducted a large hospital-based study to re-evaluate this survival paradox based on the newest 8th edition staging system. METHODS: The National Cancer Data Base was queried to evaluate 35,606 patients diagnosed with Stage IIB, IIC, and IIIA colon cancer between 2010 and 2017. The Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank test were used to compare unadjusted overall survival (OS). Multivariable Cox proportional hazards model was used to determine the association of stage with hazard ratios adjusted for relevant demographic and clinical variables including ≥ 12 LNs retrieved and receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy. P value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: The 5-year OS for optimally treated stage IIIA colon cancer (receipt of C) was 84.3%, which was significantly higher than stage IIB/C (≥ 12 LNs retrieved + C) (72.8%; P < 0.0001). Stage was an independent predictor of OS. Among optimally treated Stage IIIA patients, T1N1 had the best survival (90.6%) while stage T4bN0 (stage IIC) had the worst (70.9%) (P < 0.0001). Compared to stage IIB, stage IIC had a 17% increased risk of overall death while stage IIIA had a 21% reduction in death (P < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Stage IIB/C and Stage IIIA survival paradox persists even after accounting for receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy and adequate lymph node retrieval. Future iteration of the TNM system should take this paradox into consideration.

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