Feasibility of preoperative chemotherapy for locally advanced, operable colon cancer: the pilot phase of a randomised controlled trial

Lancet Oncol. 2012 Nov;13(11):1152-60. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70348-0. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Background: Preoperative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy and radiotherapy are more effective than similar postoperative treatment for oesophageal, gastric, and rectal cancers, perhaps because of more effective micrometastasis eradication and reduced risk of incomplete excision and tumour cell shedding during surgery. The FOxTROT trial aims to investigate the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of preoperative chemotherapy for colon cancer.

Methods: In the pilot stage of this randomised controlled trial, 150 patients with radiologically staged locally advanced (T3 with ≥5 mm invasion beyond the muscularis propria or T4) tumours from 35 UK centres were randomly assigned (2:1) to preoperative (three cycles of OxMdG [oxaliplatin 85 mg/m(2), l-folinic acid 175 mg, fluorouracil 400 mg/m(2) bolus, then 2400 mg/m(2) by 46 h infusion] repeated at 2-weekly intervals followed by surgery and a further nine cycles of OxMdG) or standard postoperative chemotherapy (12 cycles of OxMdG). Patients with KRAS wild-type tumours were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive panitumumab (6 mg/kg; every 2 weeks with the first 6 weeks of chemotherapy) or not. Treatment allocation was through a central randomisation service using a minimised randomisation procedure including age, radiological T and N stage, site of tumour, and presence of defunctioning colostomy as stratification variables. Primary outcome measures of the pilot phase were feasibility, safety, and tolerance of preoperative therapy, and accuracy of radiological staging. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered, number ISRCTN 87163246.

Findings: 96% (95 of 99) of patients started and 89% (85 of 95) completed preoperative chemotherapy with grade 3-4 gastrointestinal toxicity in 7% (seven of 94) of patients. All 99 tumours in the preoperative group were resected, with no significant differences in postoperative morbidity between the preoperative and control groups: 14% (14 of 99) versus 12% (six of 51) had complications prolonging hospital stay (p=0·81). 98% (50 of 51) of postoperative chemotherapy patients had T3 or more advanced tumours confirmed at post-resection pathology compared with 91% (90 of 99) of patients following preoperative chemotherapy (p=0·10). Preoperative therapy resulted in significant downstaging of TNM5 compared with the postoperative group (p=0·04), including two pathological complete responses, apical node involvement (1% [one of 98] vs 20% [ten of 50], p<0·0001), resection margin involvement (4% [four of 99] vs 20% [ten of 50], p=0·002), and blinded centrally scored tumour regression grading: 31% (29 of 94) vs 2% (one of 46) moderate or greater regression (p=0·0001).

Interpretation: Preoperative chemotherapy for radiologically staged, locally advanced operable primary colon cancer is feasible with acceptable toxicity and perioperative morbidity. Proceeding to the phase 3 trial, to establish whether the encouraging pathological responses seen with preoperative therapy translates into improved long-term oncological outcome, is appropriate.

Funding: Cancer Research UK.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols* / therapeutic use
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage
  • Fluorouracil / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / adverse effects
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Panitumumab
  • Preoperative Period*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Panitumumab
  • Fluorouracil