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Prescrire Int. 2005 Dec;14(80):230-3.

Chemotherapy of metastatic colorectal cancer: fluorouracil plus folinic acid and irinotecan or oxaliplatin.

[No authors listed]


(1) Following the recent introduction of several new cytotoxic agents, a new look at the role of chemotherapy in metastatic colorectal cancer is needed. (2) In one clinical trial of first-line treatment, fluorouracil + folinic acid infusion, after an initial bolus (LV-5FU2 protocol), was more effective and better tolerated than bolus administration alone (Mayo Clinic protocol). (3) Five comparative trials failed to show that raltitrexed was more effective than fluorouracil + folinic acid in first-line treatment, and it has more serious adverse effects. (4) There are no comparative trials of capecitabine or tegafur + uracil versus fluorouracil + folinic acid (LV-5FU2 protocol) in first-line treatment. (5) In three comparative randomised trials involving previously untreated patients, adjunction of oxaliplatin to the fluorouracil + folinic acid combination (FOLFOX protocol) increased both tumour response rate and progression-free survival (by about 2 months), but it also caused more neuropathies, severe diarrhea and severe neutropenia. (6) In two comparative trials of first-line treatment, adjunction of irinotecan to fluorouracil + folinic acid (FOLFIRI protocol) increased the median survival time by about 3 months, to 15-17 months, but increased the incidence of diarrhea, neutropenia, serious cardiovascular disorders and severe thrombosis. (7) In second-line treatment, irinotecan is the only properly assessed drug with a positive impact, prolonging survival compared with appropriate palliative care (34 months after diagnosis, versus 27 months). (8) In one comparative trial, first-line treatment with the FOLFOX protocol, followed by the FOLFIRI protocol, resulted in the same median survival time (21 months) as the reverse sequence. (9) In practice, the first-line treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer appears to be the fluorouracil + folinic acid combination (LV-5FU2 protocol) plus either oxaliplatin (FOLFOX protocol) or irinotecan (FOLFIRI protocol). The reference second-line treatment is the FOLFIRI protocol (or the FOLFOX protocol if the FOLFIRI protocol has already been used). These treatments were associated with the longest survival in one trial.

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