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Dis Colon Rectum. 1990 Aug;33(8):688-94.

Colorectal metastases to the liver: present status of management.

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  • 1Instituto di Patologia Chirurgica I, Universita' Degli Studi di Padova, Italy.


The management of patients with hepatic metastases from colorectal carcinoma is controversial. While a "no treatment" attitude still persists, other patients undergo systemic chemotherapy with very limited results. Other possible options are hepatic resection and locoregional treatments. One hundred twenty-three patients with hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer were treated at the authors' institution over a period of 15 years. Thirty-nine patients underwent hepatic resection while 84 underwent various forms of locoregional treatment. Several patients in the latter group were registered in one national (RNSI) Phase 2 study and one international (EORTC) Phase 3 trial. The authors' experience confirms the opinion that hepatic resection can be performed with the aim of curing in patients with isolated metastases. A five-year survival rate can be achieved in 25 to 30 percent of the resectable patients. Patients with unresectable extrahepatic disease or multiple bilateral metastases are usually excluded from resection. In other cases, hepatic resection should be carried out when technically possible. The value of adjuvant chemotherapy to the remaining liver has to be tested in prospective randomized trials. Patients with diffuse metastases can benefit from locoregional infusion of chemotherapeutic agents. Symptoms improve in most patients; objective responses vary from 53 to 83 percent of the cases, which is a higher rate than that reported for systemic chemotherapy. Survival may be prolonged in respect to untreated patients but this has not been demonstrated yet by prospective randomized studies. Current trends are continuous infusion of chemotherapeutic agents and experimentation of new drugs or drug combinations. Future improvements may be achieved by adding hepatic arterial ischemia, hyperthermia, or radiation therapy. As these kinds of treatments are still experimental, they should be applied to the patients only in the context of prospective clinical trials.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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