Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is common in North America. Metastatic disease is present at diagnosis in 30% of the patients, and approximately half of early-stage patients will eventually present with metastatic disease. Until recently, few chemotherapy options were available to treat metastatic CRC Methods: The authors review the results of recent clinical trials and the design of ongoing trials in the management of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Results: Fluorouracil (5-FU) with leucovorin (LV) modulation has a marginal but positive effect on survival in those patients. The recent incorporation of irinotecan (CPT-11) and oxaliplatin for the management of advanced CRC has generated further improvement in survival. The development of oral fluoropyrimidines, mimicking continuous infusion 5-FU, is convenient. In randomized trials, capecitabine was equally effective to bolus 5-FU and LV in the management of metastatic CRC Conclusions: Recently completed or ongoing clinical trials to study novel targeting agents have initiated a new era of drug development. Anti-angiogenesis drugs, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, and epidermal growth factor blockers are among this new generation of agents with encouraging preliminary data. Randomized trials will determine the impact of these newer agents on survival and quality of life of patients with metastatic CRC.
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