Arsenic trioxide/ascorbic acid therapy in patients with refractory metastatic colorectal carcinoma: a clinical experience

Acta Oncol. 2007;46(4):557-61. doi: 10.1080/02841860601042456.


Arsenic trioxide (As2O3) has demonstrated effectiveness in treating acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Therefore the FDA has approved it to treat APL. In patients with refractory metastatic colorectal carcinoma (CRC), we assessed the efficacy and toxicity of As2O3/AA (ascorbic acid) as the outcome of this trial. Five patients with refractory metastatic CRC who failed all previous standard chemotherapy were enrolled in this study. They were treated with 0.25 mg/kg body weight/day As2O3 and 1000 mg/day of ascorbic acid for 5 days a week for 5 weeks. Each treatment cycle extended for 7 weeks with 5 weeks of treatment and 2 weeks of rest. All the patients developed moderate to severe toxic side effects to arsenic trioxide/AA therapy and therefore the study was discontinued. No CR (complete remission) or PR (partial remission) was observed. CT scans demonstrated stable or progressive disease. Three of the five patients died within 2 to 5 months after cessation of the therapy. None of the deaths could be related to this clinical trial. Two years of follow-up study showed that two patients were alive with stable disease. Under the current treatment regimen all patients developed moderate to severe side effects with no clinically measurable activity. As an alternate, efforts may be made to reduce the dose and arsenic trioxide may be combined with other standard regimen in reversing the chemo resistance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Comparative Study
  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arsenic Trioxide
  • Arsenicals / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Oxides / therapeutic use*
  • Oxides / toxicity
  • Thymidylate Synthase / blood
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Arsenicals
  • DNA Primers
  • Oxides
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Arsenic Trioxide