5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) remains the agent of choice for the treatment of colorectal cancer. Research has focused on the biomodulation of 5-FU in order to attempt to improve the cytotoxity and therapeutic effectiveness of this drug in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. Modulation of 5-FU by methotrexate (MTX), trimetrexate (TMTX), interferon-α (IFN-α), leucovorin (LV), or N-(phosphonacetyl)-L-asparte acid (PALA) has produced higher response rates than those observed with 5-FU alone. Methotrexate may improve the durability of response to or survival with 5-FU, but with inferior results compared with those in trials of 5-FU and leucovorin. Trimetrexate produces a number of responses, and further phase III trials are in progress to confirm the results of promising phase H trials with this drug. IFN-α has shown therapeutic efficiency when combined with 5-FU alone or with 5-FU and leucovorin, but latest studies with these combinations have shown increased toxicity. Initial single-institution phase I trials with 5-FU and PALA reported promising responses, but the latter responses with PALA were not substantiated in randomized multicenter trials. Leucovorin enhances the cytotoxic activity of 5-FU in vitro and in vivo, and several clinical trials have shown improved response rates and possible trends in improved survival when such therapy is compared with the use of 5-FU as a single-agent. More recent randomized trials have focused their attention on determining the optimal dose and schedule with this combination for producing a better clinical response with minimal toxicity. Schedules using infusional 5-FU appear to be the most active regimens when 5-FU is used as a single agent, as demonstrated by recent randomized trials. The Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) have performed separate randomized trials and have shown that the optimal regimens employ infusional 5-FU as a single agent, and that these are the least toxic regimens, perhaps more effective, and associated with a better quality of life. Future studies will focus on infusional regimens involving either short-term, highdose protracted or long-term, low-dose protracted infusion of 5-FU, since these regimens have shown the most favorable toxicity spectrum and produced the longest survival times. Future research will also focus on the evaluation of various methods of delivery of 5-FU, including oral administration of the drug in combination with compounds that can modify its catabolism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research