Management of advanced colorectal cancer, part 2

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Important developments in chemotherapy for advanced colorectal cancer over the past 15 years are reviewed, with an emphasis on the most recently published data from clinical trials of newer multidrug regimens, administration techniques, and dosing schedules.


Eight agents are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in treating patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Fluorouracil and leucovorin still constitute the foundation of most chemotherapy regimens for this population; combination fluorouracil–leucovorin therapy plus either irinotecan (the FOLFIRI regimen) or oxaliplatin (the FOLFOX regimen) are two firmly established first-line treatments shown to produce similar outcomes. In Phase III trials conducted over the past six to seven years, regimens of capecitabine plus oxaliplatin (CapeOx) were demonstrated to have clinical effectiveness comparable to that of FOLFOX therapy. Response rates of 35–55% and median overall survival of ≥20 months have been documented with some of the newer regimens. Research to define the optimal role of the three monoclonal antibody agents approved by FDA for use in managing advanced colorectal cancer is ongoing; bevacizumab has been shown to confer significant survival benefits when added to certain chemotherapy regimens, and other monoclonal antibodies (cetuximab and panitumumab) also appear to offer significant benefits in select patients as first- or second-line therapies.


Over the past 15 years, a shift toward multiagent treatment strategies including a variety of chemotherapy agents and monoclonal antibodies has yielded improved rates of response and prolonged survival among patients with advanced colorectal cancer. The CapeOx, FOLFOX, and FOLFIRI regimens are currently among the most widely used first-line treatments.

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