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Regional chemotherapy, delivered via the hepatic artery, may significantly increase tumour response rates in patients with colorectal liver metastases. However, survival is limited by extrahepatic disease progression. We have developed a novel therapeutic approach for patients with metastases confined to the liver. In order to achieve high local response rates and also inhibit extrahepatic progression, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) was infused intra-arterially at a dose previously calculated to achieve both high-dose regional therapy and adequate systemic levels. To enhance efficacy further, 5-FU was combined with high-dose systemic folinic acid (FA). Thirty-one patients were evaluated in a phase II study. 5-FU (1.5 g m2) was infused via a surgically implanted hepatic artery catheter over a 24 h period; FA (total 400 mg m-2) was infused intravenously during the initial and final 2 h. Treatments were given weekly for cycles of 6 weeks' duration. To date, median duration of treatment is 6 months and the median follow-up period is 17 months. The overall response rate was 48% with two complete and 13 partial responses. Predicted median time to progression is 8 months. The site of first progression was hepatic in 10 (42%) and extrahepatic in 14 (58%) patients. Seven patients developed local complications; one required emergency surgery. Side-effects were limited to grade 3 toxicity (four patients) or less. Predicted median survival is 19 months. This approach, which is associated with a high response rate and low systemic toxicity, warrants further evaluation. A phase III study is planned.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





677 - 680


Adult, Aged, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Colorectal Neoplasms, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Female, Fluorouracil, Hepatic Artery, Humans, Infusions, Intra-Arterial, Infusions, Intravenous, Leucovorin, Liver Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged