Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Clin Oncol. 2001 Mar 1;19(5):1501-18.

Irinotecan in the treatment of colorectal cancer: clinical overview.

Author information

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine (Cancer Research), West German Cancer Center, University of Essen Medical School, Essen, Germany.



For more than three decades, the therapeutic options for patients with advanced colorectal cancer have almost exclusively been based on fluoropyrimidines. With the recognition that topoisomerase-I (TOP-I) is an important therapeutic target in cancer therapy, irinotecan, a semisynthetic TOP-I-interactive camptothecin derivative, has been clinically established in the treatment of colorectal cancer.


Irinotecan was investigated as second-line chemotherapy after prior treatment with fluorouracil (FU)-based regimens in two large randomized phase III trials comparing irinotecan with either best supportive care or an infusional FU/leucovorin (LV) regimen. The outcomes of these trials established irinotecan as the standard therapy in the second-line treatment of colorectal cancer. The therapeutic value of irinotecan in the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer was investigated in two large randomized phase III trials comparing the combination of irinotecan and FU/LV with FU/LV alone. Both trials demonstrated significant superior efficacy for the combination of irinotecan and FU/LV in terms of response rate, median time to disease progression, and median survival time. Consequently, the combination of irinotecan and FU/LV has been approved as first-line chemotherapy for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer and constitutes the reference therapy against which other treatment options must be tested in the future.


In this review, the clinical rationale and update of the present clinical status of irinotecan in the treatment of colorectal cancer and future prospects of irinotecan-based combinations are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk