A Randomized Phase II Study of Axitinib as Maintenance Therapy After First-line Treatment for Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of maintenance therapy with axitinib versus placebo following induction therapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).

Patients and Methods

In this double-blinded, phase II trial, patients with mCRC who had not progressed after 6 to 8 months of first-line chemotherapy were randomized to receive axitinib (5 mg twice a day) (arm A) or placebo (arm B).


Forty-nine patients were included: 25 in arm A and 24 in arm B. The median follow-up was 26.07 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 18.44-31.73 months). Progression-free survival (PFS) rate at 6 months was 40.00% (95% CI, 21.28%-58.12%) in the axitinib arm versus 8.33% (95% CI, 1.44%-23.30%) in the placebo arm (P = .0141). The median PFS was statistically significantly longer in the axitinib group than in the placebo group (4.96 vs. 3.16 months; hazard ratio, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.25-0.86; P = .0116). Median overall survival was also longer in the axitinib arm but did not reach statistical significance (27.61 vs. 19.99 months; hazard ratio, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.31-1.48; P = .3279). Grade 3 to 4 treatment-related toxicities were experienced by 7 patients (28%) in cohort A and 1 patient (4%) in cohort B (P = .0488). The most frequent grade 3 to 4 treatment-related toxicities were hypertension, diarrhea, and asthenia. There were no toxic deaths. The study was prematurely closed because of slow recruitment.


In our study, maintenance treatment with axitinib monotherapy showed a significant increase in PFS and a good safety profile. Axitinib should be further explored as a possible option for first-line chemotherapy maintenance treatment in patients with mCRC.


Axitinib as maintenance therapy versus placebo after first-line chemotherapy has shown statistically significant longer median progression free survival and a tend in overall survival in metastatic colorectal cancer patients.

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