The impact of adding low-dose leucovorin to monthly 5-fluorouracil in advanced colorectal carcinoma: Results of a phase III trial

M. M. Borner, M. Castiglione, M. Bacchi, W. Weber, R. Herrmann, M. F. Fey, O. Pagani, S. Leyvraz, R. Morant, B. Pestalozzi, S. Hanselmann, A. Goldhirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: A wide variety of fluorouracil (FU)-plus-leucovorin (LV) dose schedules are in clinical use for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. Only the monthly low-dose LV-plus-FU regimen, as used by the North Central Cancer Treatment Group, has demonstrated a lasting survival benefit as opposed to FU alone (J Clin Oncol 1989; 7: 1407-1417). The Swiss Cancer Group adopted this regimen for a confirmatory phase III trial but used the same dose-intensity of fluorouracil in both treatment arms. Patients and methods: Patients with inoperable or metastatic colorectal cancer were randomized to receive monthly FU 400 mg/m2/day plus LV 20 mg/m2/day as intravenous push daily for five days, or FU alone. Results: Three hundred nine of the 310 patients randomized were eligible and included in the analysis. The objective response rate for patients with measurable disease was 9% with FU alone and 22% with FU-plus-LV (P = 0.0001). The median progression-free survival was 3.9 versus 6.2 months (P = 0.003) and tile overall survival 10 versus 12.4 months (P = 0.02). The major prognostic factors for survival were performance status, weight loss, and disease symptoms. WHO > 2 toxicity, consisting of stomatitis (P = 0.001), diarrhea (P = 0.001), and nausea (P = 0.001), was more pronounced for FU-plus-LV, without fatal events. Conclusions: This is the largest published randomized trial to compare FU-plus-LV to FU alone in advanced colorectal cancer. It confirms the survival benefit obtained from biomodulating monthly FU with low-dose LV. The toxic effects of FU-plus-LV were acceptable to most patients, and they responded well to FU dose reductions. In the absence of an ideal dose- intense FU monotherapy regimen, monthly FU with low-dose LV provides a simple and economical means by which to achieve adequate FU efficacy in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-541
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


  • colorectal cancer
  • Fluorouracil
  • Low-dose leucovorin
  • Phase III trial
  • Survival benefit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of adding low-dose leucovorin to monthly 5-fluorouracil in advanced colorectal carcinoma: Results of a phase III trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this