For almost 40 years, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has been the only useful drug with clinically meaningful activity in metastatic colorectal carcinoma. When the disease progresses or recurs despite bolus 5-FU treatment, the options are limited. Our study shows that 5-FU given by continuous infusion is a viable alternative. Fifty-three patients received continuous infusion 5-FU. The overall response was 9%. Median survival of the entire cohort was 5 months. Patients with partial response and stable disease had median survival duration of 8 and 9 months, respectively. A dose-response relationship was observed. The commonest toxicities were mucositis (34%) and palmar-plantar syndrome (24%). There was no central line-related complication. Continuous infusion 5-FU is an effective “second-line” treatment. Further work is needed to ascertain its role, in comparison with newer agents like irinotecan (CPT-11), and oxaliplatin.
Studies have shown beyond doubt that chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancer prolongs survival, impedes progression and stabilises disease. Compared with supportive care alone, it could also provide considerable benefits in terms of improved quality of life.
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