Alternating bolus and continuous infusion 5-fluorouracil: A strategy to overcome resistance to this fluoropyrimidine in advanced colorectal cancer patients

A. Guglielmi, C. Aschele, F. Grossi, L. Tixi, A. Sobrero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Focusing our effort on the importance of FUra scheduling we have tested the hypothesis that pulse and continuous infusion (CI) of the fluoropyrimidine have different mechanisms of cytotoxicity. Our initial approach was to compare the mechanism of resistance of a cell line resistant to a short term exposure to FUra (HCT-8/FU4hR) to that of a cell line resistant to a prolonged exposure to the fluoropyrimidine (HCT-8/FU7dR). Cytotoxicity studies showed that HCT-8/FU4hR cells were still sensitive to FUra given as a 7-d exposure, suggesting different mechanisms of resistance. Indeed, rapid recovery of TS activity after drug removal was evident in the HTC-8/FU7dR cell line while HCT-8/FU4hR cells were similar to the parental cell line with regard to both the degree of in situ TS inhibition by FUra and duration of inhibition after FUra removal. In contrast, labelling studies with [3H-6] FUra (4 h exposure, 100 μ M) showed that the incorporation of the fluoropyrimidine into RNA is significantly decreased in HCT-8/FU4hR cells as compared to parental HCT-8 cells. Given the lack of cross resistance between the two schedules in vitro, a pilot trial was done on patients with colorectal cancer refractory to bolus FUra. On 15 patients failing after FUra+LV or FUra alone I PR, 3 MR, 3 SD and 8 P were observed, confirming a certain degree of activity of CI FUra in patients clinically resistant to bolus FUra. Based on this rationale, a phase II trial of schedule-oriented biochemical modulation of FUra in advanced colorectal cancer patients was conducted, employing a hybrid regimen of 2 biweekly cycles of FUra bolus (600 mg/sqm), preceeded by (24 h interval) methotrexate, 200 mg/sqm (in order to maximize the RNA effect of the drug) alternating with FUra continuous infusion, 200 mg/sqm daily for 3 weeks, modulated by leucovorin, 20 mg/sqm weekly bolus (in order to maximize the DNA effect). Thirty-three consecutive patients (median ECOG PS 1) with advanced measurable colorectal cancer and no prior therapy for metastatic disease entered the study, from February 1992 to August 1993. Three complete and 13 partial responses were obtained among these 33 patients (RR=48%, 95% confidence limis, 31-66%). After a median follow-up time of 23 months, 16 patients are still alive. The median progression free survival and overall survival were 9.6 and 20.8 months, respectively. No toxic deaths or grade 4 toxicity occurred. The incidence of grade 3 toxicity per patient in any cycle was: mucositis 6%, diarrhea 3% and vomiting 3% for the bolus part and 21%, 3% and 6% respectively, for the continuous infusion part of the regimen. Hand-foot syndrome occurred in 27% of the patients treated with the continuous infusion regimen. In conclusion, this experimental and clinical project has generated a novel regimen of schedule oriented biochemical modulation that is twice as active and half as toxic compared to bolus FU+LV given with either the daily x 5 or the weekly schedule. This high clinical activity is very encouraging, especially considering that 1) consecutive patients were entered, 2) the responses were independently reviewed, 3) the progression free survival and survival were much longer than those actually reported for this disease, 4) the toxicity of the program, in particular the bolus regimen, was relatively low allowing further intensification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-219
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • 5-fluorouracil
  • advanced colon cancer
  • biochemical modulation
  • schedule of administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Cell Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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