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J Clin Oncol. 2004 Jan 1;22(1):23-30. Epub 2003 Dec 9.

A randomized controlled trial of fluorouracil plus leucovorin, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin combinations in patients with previously untreated metastatic colorectal cancer.

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  • 1Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB# 7305, 3009 Old Clinic Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7305, USA.



Three agents with differing mechanisms of action are available for treatment of advanced colorectal cancer: fluorouracil, irinotecan, and oxaliplatin. In this study, we compared the activity and toxicity of three different two-drug combinations in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who had not been treated previously for advanced disease.


Patients were concurrently randomly assigned to receive irinotecan and bolus fluorouracil plus leucovorin (IFL, control combination), oxaliplatin and infused fluorouracil plus leucovorin (FOLFOX), or irinotecan and oxaliplatin (IROX). The primary end point was time to progression, with secondary end points of response rate, survival time, and toxicity.


A total of 795 patients were randomly assigned between May 1999 and April 2001. A median time to progression of 8.7 months, response rate of 45%, and median survival time of 19.5 months were observed for FOLFOX. These results were significantly superior to those observed for IFL for all end points (6.9 months, 31%, and 15.0 months, respectively) or for IROX (6.5 months, 35%, and 17.4 months, respectively) for time to progression and response. The FOLFOX regimen had significantly lower rates of severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, febrile neutropenia, and dehydration. Sensory neuropathy and neutropenia were more common with the regimens containing oxaliplatin.


The FOLFOX regimen of oxaliplatin and infused fluorouracil plus leucovorin was active and comparatively safe. It should be considered as a standard therapy for patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

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