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Today, adjuvant 5-fluorouracil based therapy is known to significantly reduce the relapse rates and the risks of dying from resected colon cancer; chemotherapy approximately doubles overall survival of advanced colorectal cancer and second line treatment prolongs the survival of patients compared with best supportive care. At the molecular level a number of key genes are often mutated in cancer of the colon and some of these key regulators of apoptosis are discussed (p53 and bcl-2 family of proteins). Dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) activity may be a potential factor controlling fluorouracil (FU) responsiveness at the tumoral level and its importance is stressed. The rationale of combining FU with DPD inhibitors is fairly strong. Ethynyluracil, UFT and S1 pursue this strategy while capecitabine has another the rationale. Drug resistance should be at least partially overcome by combination chemotherapy (FU plus mitomycin, oxaliplatin, irinotecan) and combined modality (FU+RT) regimens. Improved surgical techniques and radiotherapy have substantially decreased local failure rates for rectal cancers. Finally, innovative treatment modalities such as anti-angiogenetic and antimetastatic agents, farnesyl transferase inhibitors, vaccine and gene therapy are in early clinical trials.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Cancer

Publication Date





559 - 566


Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Colorectal Neoplasms, Combined Modality Therapy, Fluorouracil, Humans, Patient Satisfaction, Survival Analysis