Background: Two years after undergoing resection of liver metastases from colorectal cancer, about 65 percent of patients are alive and 25 percent are free of detectable disease. We tried to improve these outcomes by treating patients with hepatic arterial infusion of floxuridine plus systemic fluorouracil after liver resection.
Methods: We randomly assigned 156 patients at the time of resection of hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer to receive six cycles of hepatic arterial infusion with floxuridine and dexamethasone plus intravenous fluorouracil, with or without leucovorin, or six weeks of similar systemic therapy alone. Patients were stratified according to previous treatment and the number of liver metastases identified at operation. The study end points were overall survival, survival without recurrence of hepatic metastases, and survival without any metastases at two years.
Results: The actuarial rate of overall survival at two years was 86 percent in the group treated with local plus systemic chemotherapy and 72 percent in the group given systemic therapy alone (P=0.03). The median survival was 72.2 months in the combined-therapy group and 59.3 months in the monotherapy group, with a median follow-up of 62.7 months. After two years, the rates of survival free of hepatic recurrence were 90 percent in the monotherapy group and 60 percent in the monotherapy group (P<0.001), and the respective rates of progression-free survival were 57 percent and 42 percent (P=0.07). At two years, the risk ratio for death was 2.34 among patients treated with systemic therapy alone, as compared with patients who received combined therapy (95 percent confidence interval, 1.10 to 4.98; P=0.027), after adjustment for important variables. The rates of adverse effects of at least moderate severity were similar in the two groups, except for a higher frequency of diarrhea and hepatic effects in the combined-therapy group.
Conclusions: For patients who undergo resection of liver metastases from colorectal cancer, postoperative treatment with a combination of hepatic arterial infusion of floxuridine and intravenous fluorouracil improves the outcome at two years.