9

Stage IV and Recurrent Colon Cancer Treatment

Stage IV colon cancer denotes distant metastatic disease. Treatment of recurrent colon cancer depends on the sites of recurrent disease demonstrable by physical examination and/or radiographic studies. In addition to standard radiographic procedures, radioimmunoscintography may add clinical information that may affect management[1]. Such approaches have not led to improvements in long-term outcome measures such as survival.

Treatment Options for Stage IV and Recurrent Colon Cancer

Treatment options for stage IV and recurrent colon cancer include the following:

Treatment of Liver Metastasis

Approximately 50% of colon cancer patients will be diagnosed with hepatic metastases, either at the time of initial presentation or as a result of disease recurrence. Although only a small proportion of patients with hepatic metastases are candidates for surgical resection, advances in tumor ablation techniques and in both regional and systemic chemotherapy administration provide for a number of treatment options. These include the following:

Surgery.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Local ablation.

Adjuvant chemotherapy.

Intra-arterial chemotherapy.

Surgery

Hepatic metastasis may be considered to be resectable based on the following:[5][7][13][14][15][16]

Limited number of lesions.

Intrahepatic locations of lesions.

Lack of major vascular involvement.

Absent or limited extrahepatic disease.

Sufficient functional hepatic reserve.

For patients with hepatic metastasis considered to be resectable, a negative margin resection resulted in 5-year survival rates of 25% to 40% in mostly nonrandomized studies, such as the NCCTG-934653 trial[5][7][13][14][15][16]. Improved surgical techniques and advances in preoperative imaging have allowed for better patient selection for resection. In addition, multiple studies with multiagent chemotherapy have demonstrated that patients with metastatic disease isolated to the liver, which historically would be considered unresectable, can occasionally be made resectable after the administration of chemotherapy[17].

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Patients with hepatic metastases that are deemed unresectable will occasionally become candidates for resection if they have a good response to chemotherapy. These patients have 5-year survival rates similar to patients who initially had resectable disease[17].

Local ablation

Radiofrequency ablation has emerged as a safe technique (2% major morbidity and <1% mortality rate) that may provide for long-term tumor control[18][19][20][21][22][23][24]. Radiofrequency ablation and cryosurgical ablation [25][26][27][28] remain options for patients with tumors that cannot be resected and for patients who are not candidates for liver resection.

Other local ablative techniques that have been used to manage liver metastases include embolization and interstitial radiation therapy[29][30]. Patients with limited pulmonary metastases, and patients with both pulmonary and hepatic metastases, may also be considered for surgical resection, with 5-year survival possible in highly-selected patients[12][31][32].

Adjuvant chemotherapy

The role of adjuvant chemotherapy after potentially curative resection of liver metastases is uncertain.

Evidence (adjuvant chemotherapy):

Further studies are required to evaluate this treatment approach and to determine if more effective systemic combination chemotherapy alone may provide similar results compared with hepatic intra-arterial therapy plus systemic treatment.

Intra-arterial chemotherapy

Hepatic intra-arterial chemotherapy with floxuridine for liver metastases has produced higher overall response rates but no consistent improvement in survival when compared with systemic chemotherapy[2][35][36][37][38][39]. A meta-analysis of the randomized studies, which were all done in the era when only fluoropyrimidines were available for systemic therapy, did not demonstrate a survival advantage[40].

Several studies show increased local toxic effects with hepatic infusional therapy, including liver function abnormalities and fatal biliary sclerosis.

Treatment of Stage IV and Recurrent Colon Cancer

Surgery.

Chemotherapy and targeted therapy.

Second-line chemotherapy.

Surgery

Treatment of patients with recurrent or advanced colon cancer depends on the location of the disease. For patients with locally recurrent and/or liver-only and/or lung-only metastatic disease, surgical resection, if feasible, is the only potentially curative treatment.

Chemotherapy and targeted therapy

Currently, there are eight active and approved drugs for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer that are used alone and in combination with other drugs:

5-FU.

Capecitabine.

Irinotecan.

Oxaliplatin.

Bevacizumab.

Cetuximab.

Aflibercept.

Panitumumab.

Drug combinations described in this section include the following:

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Internische Onkologie (AIO) or German AIO regimen (folic acid, 5-FU, and irinotecan):

Irinotecan (100 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; leucovorin (500 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; followed by 5-FU (2,000 mg/m2) intravenous (IV) bolus via ambulatory pump administered for a period of 24 hours on a weekly basis four times a year (52 weeks).

The CAPOX regimen:

Capecitabine (1,000 mg/m2) twice a day on days 1 through 14 plus oxaliplatin (70 mg/m2) on days 1 and 8 every 3 weeks.

The Douillard regimen (folic acid, 5-FU, and irinotecan):

Irinotecan (180 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; leucovorin (200 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1 and day 2; followed by a loading dose of 5-FU (400 mg/m2) IV bolus, then 5-FU (600 mg/m2) via ambulatory pump administered for a period of 22 hours on day 1 and day 2 every 2 weeks.

The FOLFOX4 regimen (oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and 5-FU):

Oxaliplatin (85 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; leucovorin (200 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1 and day 2; followed by a loading dose of 5-FU (400 mg/m2) IV bolus, then 5-FU (600 mg/m2) administered via ambulatory pump for a period of 22 hours on day 1 and day 2 every 2 weeks.

The FOLFOX6 regimen (oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and 5-FU):

Oxaliplatin (85–100 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; leucovorin (400 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; followed by a loading dose of 5-FU (400 mg/m2) IV bolus on day 1, then 5-FU (2,400–3,000 mg/m2) administered via ambulatory pump for a period of 46 hours every 2 weeks.

The FOLFIRI regimen (folic acid, 5-FU, and irinotecan):

Irinotecan (180 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; leucovorin (400 mg/m2) administered as a 2-hour infusion on day 1; followed by a loading dose of 5-FU (400 mg/m2) IV bolus administered on day 1, then 5-FU (2,400–3,000 mg/m2) administered via ambulatory pump for a period of 46 hours every 2 weeks.

The FUFOX regimen:

Oxaliplatin (50 mg/m2) plus leucovorin (500 mg/m2) plus 5-FU (2,000 mg/m2) as a 22-hour continuous infusion on days 1, 8, 22, and 29 every 36 days.

The FUOX regimen:

Continuous infusion 5-FU (2,250 mg/m2) during 48 hours on days 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and 36 plus oxaliplatin (85 mg/m2) on days 1, 15, and 29 every 6 weeks.

The IFL (or Saltz) regimen (irinotecan, 5-FU, and leucovorin):

Irinotecan (125 mg/m2), 5-FU (500 mg/m2) IV bolus, and leucovorin (20 mg/m2) IV bolus administered weekly for 4 out of 6 weeks.

The XELOX regimen:

Oral capecitabine (1,000 mg/m2) twice a day for 14 days plus oxaliplatin (130 mg/m2) on day 1 every 3 weeks.

When 5-FU was the only active chemotherapy drug, trials in patients with locally advanced, unresectable, or metastatic disease demonstrated partial responses and prolongation of the time-to-progression (TTP) of disease [41][42] as well as improved survival and quality of life for patients receiving chemotherapy, compared with the best supportive care[43][44][45]. Several trials have analyzed the activity and toxic effects of various 5-FU-leucovorin regimens using different doses and administration schedules and showed essentially equivalent results with a median survival time in the 12-month range[46].

Prior to the advent of multiagent chemotherapy, two randomized studies demonstrated that capecitabine was associated with equivalent efficacy when compared with the Mayo Clinic regimen of 5-FU-leucovorin[47][48].[Level of evidence: 1iiA]

Three randomized studies demonstrated improved response rates, PFS, and OS when irinotecan or oxaliplatin was combined with 5-FU-leucovorin[49][50][51].

Evidence (irinotecan):

Since the publication of these studies, the use of either FOLFOX or FOLFIRI is considered acceptable for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

When using an irinotecan-based regimen as first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, FOLFIRI is preferred[54].[Level of evidence: 1iiDiii]

Randomized phase III trials have addressed the equivalence of substituting capecitabine for infusional 5-FU. Two phase III studies have evaluated FUOX versus CAPOX[55][56].

Evidence (oxaliplatin):

When using an oxaliplatin-based regimen as first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, a CAPOX regimen is not inferior to a FUOX regimen.

Bevacizumab is a partially humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to vascular endothelial growth factor. Bevacizumab can reasonably be added to either FOLFIRI or FOLFOX for patients undergoing first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

Evidence (bevacizumab):

Based on these studies, bevacizumab can reasonably be added to either FOLFIRI or FOLFOX for patients undergoing first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. A major question was whether the use of bevacizumab after first-line therapy was warranted when bevacizumab was used as a component of first-line therapy. At the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, data was presented from a randomized, controlled trial[62]. In the trial, 820 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, after progressing on first-line chemotherapy that included bevacizumab, were randomly assigned to chemotherapy without bevacizumab or chemotherapy with bevacizumab. Patients who received bevacizumab experienced an improved OS compared with the patients who did not receive bevacizumab. Median OS was 11.2 months for patients who received bevacizumab plus chemotherapy and 9.8 months for patients who received chemotherapy without bevacizumab (HR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.69–0.94; unstratified log-rank test, P = .0062). Median PFS was 5.7 months for patients who received bevacizumab plus chemotherapy and 4.1 months for those who received chemotherapy without bevacizumab (HR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.59–0.78; unstratified log-rank test, P < .0001)[62].][Level of evidence: 1iiA]

Aflibercept is a novel anti-VEGF molecule and has been evaluated as a component of second-line therapy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. In one trial, 1,226 patients were randomly assigned to receive aflibercept (4 mg/kg IV) or placebo every 2 weeks in combination with FOLFIRI[63]. Patients who received aflibercept plus FOLFIRI had a significantly improved OS relative to placebo plus FOLFIRI (HR, 0.817; 95.34% CI, 0.713–0.937; P = .0032) with median survival times of 13.50 months versus 12.06 months, respectively. Aflibercept also significantly improved PFS (HR, 0.758; 95% CI, 0.661–0.869; P < .0001), with median PFS times of 6.90 months versus 4.67 months, respectively. On the basis of these results, the use of FOLFIRI plus aflibercept is an acceptable second-line regimen for patients previously treated with FOLFOX-based chemotherapy[63].[Level of evidence: 1A] Whether to continue bevacizumab or initiate aflibercept in second-line therapy has not been addressed as yet in any clinical trial, and there are no data available.

Cetuximab is a partially humanized monoclonal antibody against the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Because cetuximab affects tyrosine kinase signaling at the surface of the cell membrane, tumors with mutations causing activation of the pathway downstream of the EGFR, such as KRAS mutations, are not sensitive to its effects. The addition of cetuximab to multiagent chemotherapy improves survival in patients with colon cancers that lack a KRAS mutation (i.e., KRAS wild type). Importantly, patients with mutant KRAS tumors may experience worse outcome when cetuximab is added to multiagent chemotherapy regimens containing bevacizumab.

Evidence (cetuximab):

Panitumumab is a fully humanized antibody against the EGFR. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved panitumumab for use in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer refractory to chemotherapy[70]. In clinical trials, panitumumab demonstrated efficacy as a single agent or in combination therapy, which was consistent with the effects on PFS and OS with cetuximab. There appears to be a consistent class effect.

Evidence (panitumumab):

Second-line chemotherapy

Second-line chemotherapy with irinotecan in patients treated with 5-FU-leucovorin as first-line therapy demonstrated improved OS when compared with either infusional 5-FU or supportive care[74][75][76][77].

Similarly, a phase III trial randomly assigned patients who progressed on irinotecan and 5-FU-leucovorin to bolus and infusional 5-FU-leucovorin (LV5FU2), single-agent oxaliplatin, or FOLFOX4. The median TTP for FOLFOX4 versus LV5FU2 was 4.6 months versus 2.7 months (stratified log-rank test, 2-sided P < .001)[78].[Level of evidence: 1iiDiii]

Third-line chemotherapy

Regorafenib is an inhibitor of multiple tyroisine kinase pathways including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). In September 2012, the FDA granted approval for the use of regorafenib in patients who had progressed on prior therapy. The safety and effectiveness of regorafenib were evaluated in a single, clinical study of 760 patients with previously treated metastatic colorectal cancer[79]. Patients were randomly assigned to receive regorafenib or placebo in addition to best supportive care. Patients treated with regorafenib had a statistically significant improvement in OS (6.4 months vs. 5 months, HR, 0.493; 95% CI, 0.418–0.581; 1-sided P < .000001)[79].

Treatment Options Under Clinical Evaluation

Treatment options under clinical evaluation for stage IV and recurrent colon cancer include the following:

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage IV colon cancer and recurrent colon cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

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