Medline: 10744089

The fulltext Lancet 355(9209): 1041-1047, 2000. is available online for subscribers.

Irinotecan combined with fluorouracil compared with fluorouracil alone as first-line treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer: a multicentre randomised trial.

Douillard JY, Cunningham D, Roth AD, et al.


Irinotecan is active against colorectal cancer in patients whose disease is refractory to fluorouracil. We investigated the efficacy of these two agents combined for first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

387 patients previously untreated with chemotherapy (other than adjuvant) for advanced colorectal cancer were randomly assigned open-label irinotecan plus fluorouracil and calcium folinate (irinotecan group, n=199) or fluorouracil and calcium folinate alone (no-irinotecan group, n=188). Infusion schedules were once weekly or every 2 weeks, and were chosen by each centre. We assessed response rates and time to progression, and also response duration, survival, and quality of life. Analyses were done on the intention-to-treat population and on evaluable patients. FINDINGS: The response rate was significantly higher in patients in the irinotecan group than in those in the no-irinotecan group (49 vs 31%, p<0.001 for evaluable patients, 35 vs 22%, p<0.005 by intention to treat). Time to progression was significantly longer in the irinotecan group than in the no-irinotecan group (median 6.7 vs 4.4 months, p<0.001), and overall survival was higher (median 17.4 vs 14.1 months, p=0.031). Some grade 3 and 4 toxic effects were significantly more frequent in the irinotecan group than in the no-irinotecan group, but effects were predictible, reversible, non-cumulative, and manageable. INTERPRETATION: Irinotecan combined with fluorouracil and calcium folinate was well-tolerated and increased response rate, time to progression, and survival, with a later deterioration in quality of life. This combination should be considered as a reference first-line treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer.

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Dr. G. Quade