Prospective randomized comparison of fluorouracil versus fluorouracil and high-dose continuous infusion leucovorin calcium for the treatment of advanced measurable colorectal cancer in patients previously unexposed to chemotherapy

J Clin Oncol. 1990 Mar;8(3):491-501. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1990.8.3.491.


Seventy-nine patients with advanced, measurable, metastatic colorectal cancer previously unexposed to chemotherapy were randomly assigned to treatment with either fluorouracil (FUra) administered intravenously at a dose of 370 mg/m2/d for 5 days or the combination of FUra in the same dose and schedule with high-dose continuous infusion leucovorin calcium (500 mg/m2/d) beginning 24 hours before the first dose of FUra and continuing for 12 hours after the completion of FUra therapy. Patients whose disease progressed on treatment with FUra alone were, if eligible, crossed over to receive leucovorin and FUra. Three patients on the FUra plus leucovorin arm of the study were excluded from the analysis because they did not meet eligibility requirements. The treatment arms were well balanced for prognostic criteria including performance status, age, prior radiotherapy, distribution of metastatic sites, and on-study carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), lactic dehydrogenase, and serum albumin. FUra plus leucovorin was superior to FUra alone for response (P = .0019) and for time to progression or death (log-rank, P = .045). Response rates were 16 of 36 (44%) versus five of 40 (13%), and median time to progression or death was 164 versus 120 days in the two arms of the trial, respectively. Overall survival, however, while longer in the FUra and leucovorin arm was not significantly so. An analysis of the toxicities experienced by the patients in the two treatment groups showed that, except for significantly more stomatitis in the leucovorin arm of the study, the side effects experienced by patients treated with either regimen were comparable. These results suggest that the efficacy of FUra in patients with advanced, measurable, metastatic colorectal cancer can be enhanced significantly by administration of a continuous high-dose infusion of leucovorin calcium.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / mortality
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Female
  • Fluorouracil / administration & dosage*
  • Fluorouracil / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Leucovorin / administration & dosage*
  • Leucovorin / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Survival Analysis


  • Leucovorin
  • Fluorouracil