© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation by radiation leads to increased cell proliferation and acts as a radioresistance mechanism. Neoadjuvant chemoradiation is the standard of care for locally advanced rectal cancer, and to date, no biomarkers of response have been found. We analyzed polymorphisms in the EGFR and its ligands, DNA repair genes and the thymidylate synthase in 84 stages II and III rectal cancer patients treated with neoadjuvant capecitabine plus radiotherapy. The rs11942466 polymorphism in the amphiregulin (AREG) gene region was associated with a pathological complete response (ypCR) (odds ratio: 0.26; 95% confidence interval: 0.06-0.79; P=0.014). The rs11615 C>T polymorphism in the ERCC1 gene also correlated with the ypCR as no patients with a C/C genotype achieved ypCR; P=0.023. This is the first work to propose variants within the AREG and the ERCC1 genes as promising predictive biomarkers of ypCR in rectal cancer.