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Bruce D. Minsky, Claus Rödel and Vincenzo Valentini

The 2 broad approaches to preoperative therapy for rectal cancer are chemoradiation and short-course radiation. The outcomes of these 2 approaches reported in nonrandomized trials are not comparable because patients selected for treatment with short-course radiotherapy included those with cT1–3 disease, whereas patients selected for chemoradiation included those with T3 and/or N+ disease. However, more recent trials of short-course radiation have included patients with cT3 and/or N+ disease who also underwent sequential or postoperative chemotherapy, allowing a more relevant comparison with chemoradiation. This article compares the 2 preoperative approaches and addresses their emerging roles.