Background: Recent novel surgical techniques for resection of low rectal cancer have been introduced and these approaches have the potential to overcome anatomical limitations like obesity, narrow male pelvis and bulky and low tumours. Two of these procedures are robotic low anterior resection (RLAR) and transanal total mesorectal excision (TaTME).Both approaches have distinct advantages and limitations. There has been no head to head trial comparing RLAR and TaTME for patients with mid to low rectal cancer undergoing surgery by experienced surgeons. Previous studies looking at the oncological outcomes of either TaTME or robotic TME included many centres where the surgeons were on a learning curve and hence the true oncological outcomes and clinical benefits can not be measured accurately.
Method: The inclusion criteria include experienced surgeons defined as minimum of 60 prior procedures with RLAR or TaTME. Successful oncological and clinical outcomes are defined as circumferential resection margin (CRM) ≥1 mm with limited postoperative morbidity (absence of Clavien-Dindo grade III-IV complications within 30 days after surgery). Local and distal recurrence rates with DFS over 3 years will be measured as primary outcome.Data will be collected prospectively and entered in a dedicated database.
Discussion: The primary objective of this study is to conduct a multicentre prospective trial to investigate clinical outcomes, in particular disease free survival (DFS) in patients undergoing RLAR and TaTME. The additional goal is to investigate other efficacy measures, complications rates, health economic aspects and patient reported health related quality of life.This paper describes an important trial conducted in expert centres to establish the needed knowledge for a detailed comparison of outcomes for TaTME versus RLAR.This trial is the first comparative study, comparing TaTME and RLAR, seeking to establish foothold for tailor-made surgical treatment of low rectal cancer patients.
Trial registration: The trial is registered in clinicaltrials.gov September 2019. Clinicaltrials.gov id: NCT04200027.