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Onkologie. 2007 Apr;30(4):169-74. Epub 2007 Mar 23.

A randomised phase II study of irinotecan in combination with 5-FU/FA compared with irinotecan alone as second-line treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma.

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  • 1Medizinische Klinik I, Kliniken Maria Hilf GmbH, Krankenhaus St. Franziskus, Mönchengladbach, Germany.



We conducted a randomised phase II study to compare irinotecan monotherapy with irinotecan in combination with infusional 5-fluorouracil/folinic acid (5-FU/FA) regarding efficacy and safety of these regimens in second-line therapy after failed fluoropyrimidine therapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).


55 patients with mCRC after failure of a first-line therapy were randomised to receive either irinotecan 80 mg/m2 followed by FA 500 mg/m2 and 5-FU 2,000 mg/m2 24 h weekly for 6 weeks, with courses repeated on day 50 (arm A), or irinotecan 125 mg/m2 weekly for 4 weeks, with cycles repeated on day 43 (Arm B).


Both regimens yielded a partial response rate of 11% with identical progression-free survival (3.7 months for both regimens) and similar overall survival (9.5 months for the combination therapy vs. 10.7 months for the monotherapy). Both regimens were very well tolerated, and the combination of irinotecan with 5-FU/FA did not result in increased toxicity.


Our study confirms that irinotecan alone or in combination with infusional 5-FU/FA is an effective and safe regimen for CRC patients who failed first-line therapies. However, the role of 5-FU in addition to irinotecan for fluoropyrimidine failures remains unclear. Due to the small sample size, a decision cannot be made which therapy should be preferred, and a significant contribution to the efficacy of single-agent irinotecan is not obvious from this small randomised phase II trial.

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