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Ann Oncol. 2002 Apr;13(4):566-75.

First-line oral capecitabine therapy in metastatic colorectal cancer: a favorable safety profile compared with intravenous 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin.

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Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, UK.



To evaluate the safety profile of capecitabine using data from a large, well-characterized population of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer treated in two phase II studies. In these trials, capecitabine achieved significantly superior response rates, equivalent time to disease progression and equivalent survival compared with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)/leucovorin.


Patients (n = 1207) were randomized to either oral capecitabine (1250 mg/m2 twice daily, on days 1-14 every 21 days) or intravenous (i.v.) bolus 5-FU/leucovorin (Mayo Clinic regimen).


Capecitabine demonstrated a safety profile superior to that of 5-FU/leucovorin, with a significantly lower incidence of diarrhea, stomatitis, nausea, alopecia and grade 3 or 4 neutropenia leading to significantly fewer neutropenic fever/sepsis cases and fewer hospitalizations. All patients in the capecitabine group received a starting dose of 1250 mg/m2 twice daily and the majority (66%) did not require dose modification for adverse events. In the 5-FU/leucovorin group, 58% of patients did not require dose reduction for toxicities. The capecitabine dose-modification scheme reduced the recurrence of key toxicities without compromising efficacy. In both treatment arms, patients with moderate renal impairment at baseline (estimated creatinine clearance 30-50 ml/min) experienced a higher incidence of grade 3 or 4 toxicities. This increase was more pronounced with 5-FU/leucovorin.


Capecitabine is at least as effective, better tolerated and more convenient than i.v. 5-FU/leucovorin as treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Analysis of data from two large phase III trials demonstrates that efficacy is not compromised in patients requiring a dose reduction for adverse events. The phase III data and an additional pharmacokinetic study support a lower starting dose in patients with moderate renal impairment at baseline (calculated creatinine clearance 30-50 ml/min) and a contra-indication in patients with severely impaired creatinine clearance at baseline (<30 ml/min). For patients with normal or mildly impaired renal function at baseline, the standard starting dose is well tolerated. The incidence and severity of adverse events in patients with moderate renal impairment at baseline who were treated with 5-FU/leucovorin was more pronounced, indicating that capecitabine provides a better-tolerated alternative.

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