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Sherif R. Z. Abdel-Misih, Lai Wei, Al B. Benson III, Steven Cohen, Lily Lai, John Skibber, Neal Wilkinson, Martin Weiser, Deborah Schrag, and Tanios Bekaii-Saab

Background: Nodal status has long been considered pivotal to oncologic care, staging, and management. This has resulted in the establishment of rudimentary metrics regarding adequate lymph node yield in colon and rectal cancers for accurate cancer staging. In the era of neoadjuvant treatment, the implications of lymph node yield and status on patient outcomes remains unclear. Patient and Methods: This study included 1,680 patients with locally advanced rectal cancer from the NCCN prospective oncology database stratified into 3 groups based on preoperative therapy received: no neoadjuvant therapy, neoadjuvant chemoradiation, and neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Clinicopathologic characteristics and survival were compared between the groups, with univariate and multivariate analyses undertaken. Results: The clinicopathologic characteristics demonstrated statistically significant differences and heterogeneity among the 3 groups. The neoadjuvant chemoradiation group demonstrated the statistically lowest median lymph node yield (n=15) compared with 17 and 18 for no-neoadjuvant and neoadjuvant chemotherapy, respectively (P<.0001). Neoadjuvant treatment did impact survival, with chemoradiation demonstrating increased median overall survival of 42.7 compared with 37.3 and 26.6 months for neoadjuvant chemotherapy and no-neoadjuvant therapy, respectively (P<.0001). Patients with a yield of fewer than 12 lymph nodes had improved median overall survival of 43.3 months compared with 36.6 months in patients with 12 or more lymph nodes (P=.009). Multivariate analysis demonstrated that neither node yield nor status were predictors for overall survival. Discussion: This analysis reiterates that nodal yield in rectal cancer is multifactorial, with neoadjuvant therapy being a significant factor. Node yield and status were not significant predictors of overall survival. A nodal metric may not be clinically relevant in the era of neoadjuvant therapy, and guidelines for perioperative therapy may need reconsideration.

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Jarred Burkart, Dwight Owen, Manisha H. Shah, Sherif R. Z. Abdel-Misih, Sameek Roychowdhury, Robert Wesolowski, Sigurdis Haraldsdottir, Julie W. Reeser, Eric Samorodnitsky, Amy Smith, and Bhavana Konda

Mutations in the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway leading to constitutive activation and uncontrolled cellular growth have been identified in various human malignancies, making this pathway a target for potential therapeutics. The activating BRAF V600E mutation is one well-characterized oncogenic mutation that has been described and targeted with clinical success in various malignancies, including melanoma and hairy cell leukemia. Although BRAF-directed treatments have yielded clinical benefit in a subset of tumor types, such as melanoma, thyroid cancer, and lung cancer, BRAF inhibition fails to confer a clinical benefit in colon cancer. Identification of patients for whom BRAF inhibition may produce clinically meaningful outcomes is imperative. The incidence of BRAF mutations in neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC) is estimated to be 5% to 10%. A recent case series demonstrated benefit in targeting the BRAF V600E mutation in metastatic high-grade rectal NECs. Combination BRAF and MEK inhibition is known to yield improved outcomes compared with BRAF inhibition alone in melanoma. This report presents 2 patients with high-grade colorectal NECs who had different responses to treatment with combined BRAF/MEK inhibition after experiencing disease progression through first-line platinum-based chemotherapy. One patient experienced an excellent initial response to therapy before ultimately experiencing progression, and in the other patient initially had stable disease before eventually experiencing progression. These cases highlight the complicated role BRAF mutations play in gastrointestinal NECs, and the need for further research to identify not only patients who may benefit from BRAF-directed therapies but also strategies to avoid development of resistance.