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Cancer. 1994 Sep 15;74(6):1706-12.

Utility of embolization or chemoembolization as second-line treatment in patients with advanced or recurrent colorectal carcinoma.

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Albert Einstein Cancer Center, New York, New York.



Second-line therapy of patients with colorectal cancer metastatic to the liver is unsatisfactory. One alternative to systemic treatment is therapy directed locoregionally.


Twenty-four patients with unresectable colorectal cancer with bulky liver metastases who had failed prior systemic therapy were randomized to treatment with either embolization or chemoembolization. For the embolization group, particulate transcatheter polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) (150-250-microns particles) mixed with full-strength iodinated radiographic contrast was administered under direct fluoroscopic control. In patients randomized to chemoembolization, 5-fluorouracil (750 mg/m2) and recombinant alpha-2a-interferon (Roche Laboratories, Nutley, NJ) (9-MU) were thoroughly mixed into the PVA contrast suspension. Study end points were response to therapy and survival.


Of 24 patients, 13 were randomized to chemoembolization and 11 to embolization therapy. All were assessable for toxicity, response, and complications. Among the first 13 patients treated initially, a suppurative abscess developed in one patient, who died. Eleven subsequent patients were pretreated with oral and intravenous antibiotics without further infectious complications. Five patients had hemorrhagic complications, two of which were serious. The treatment was otherwise well tolerated, with most patients experiencing transient pain, fevers, and elevations in leukocyte counts and liver enzymes, which resolved spontaneously. Computed tomography scans of the liver were used to assess patient response to therapy. There were 6 responders (25%) among the 24 patients treated. No differences in response to treatment or survival between the embolization and chemoembolization groups were noted. With a median follow-up of more than 12 months, the median survival was 9.3 months from the time of embolization therapy.


Embolization and chemoembolization therapy appear to have antitumor activity as second-line therapy in patients with colorectal carcinoma with bulky liver metastases. Although generally well tolerated, complications of this therapy may be severe. The addition of further patients to this trial will allow a rigorous comparison of embolization alone versus embolization with chemotherapy.

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