Treatment of hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer: many doubts, some certainties

Cancer Treat Rev. 2006 May;32(3):214-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2005.12.011. Epub 2006 Mar 20.


About 50% of patients with colorectal cancer (CCR) are destined to develop hepatic metastases during the course of the disease. Surgery is currently the only potentially curative treatment with a five year survival rate after hepatectomy from 26% to 49%. The criteria for resectability are now less rigid than in the past and the tendency to adopt a more aggressive treatment of metastatic lesions is the rule. Systemic infusion chemotherapies based on 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), oxaliplatin (OHP) and irinotecan (CPT-11) are well tolerated and have been shown to be effective in non-operable patients. These regimens allow surgery for patients who are initially not suitable for resection, giving them a probability of survival at five years similar to that of patients operated on at diagnosis. Intra-arterial infusion chemotherapy (HAI) is very effective in inducing objective responses, but is costly, difficult to manage and encumbered by major side effects, so that its application is necessarily limited to centres with specific experience. However, despite the broader criteria and recent advances of chemotherapy, surgery is not possible in most patients. The role of other local therapeutic techniques like cryosurgery (CS) and radiofrequency ablation (RF), alone or combined with surgery or chemotherapy, is not yet established in a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach. Roughly two thirds of patients relapse during the first two years after surgery suggesting appropriate post-operative chemotherapy treatment after hepatic resection may be indicated, but no randomised studies have been published to date. In case of relapse, another hepatectomy should be considered. The role of novel targeted therapies in pre-operative, post-operative and palliative management has yet to be evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Camptothecin / administration & dosage
  • Camptothecin / analogs & derivatives
  • Catheter Ablation
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cryosurgery
  • Decision Trees
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Hepatic Artery
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intra-Arterial
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Irinotecan
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy / methods
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Irinotecan
  • Fluorouracil
  • Camptothecin