Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common noncutaneous malignancy in the United States and the second most frequent cause of cancer-related death. Over the past 12 years, significant progress has been made in the systemic treatment of this malignant condition. Six new chemotherapeutic agents have been introduced, increasing median overall survival for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer from less than 9 months with no treatment to approximately 24 months. For patients with stage III (lymph node positive) colon cancer, an overall survival benefit for fluorouracil-based chemotherapy has been firmly established, and recent data have shown further efficacy for the inclusion of oxaliplatin in such adjuvant treatment programs. For patients with stage II colon cancer, the use of adjuvant chemotherapy remains controversial, but may be appropriate in a subset of individuals at higher risk for disease recurrence. Ongoing randomized clinical trials are evaluating how best to combine currently available therapies, while smaller studies are evaluating new agents, with the goal of continued progress in prolonging life among patients with metastatic colorectal cancer and increasing cure rates among those with resectable disease.