We compared the effectiveness of fluorouracil (5-FU) alone (arm A), high-dose leucovorin plus 5-FU (arm B), and sequential methotrexate, 5-FU, and leucovorin (arm C) for treatment of patients with advanced colorectal carcinomas who had not received prior chemotherapy. Arm A consisted of infusions of 5-FU at 12 mg/kg/d intravenously (IV) for 5 days followed by weekly infusions of 5-FU at 15 mg/kg; arm B consisted of leucovorin infusions at 200 mg/m2/d IV plus infusions of 5-FU at 400 mg/m2/d IV on days 1 through 5 of a 28-day cycle; arm C consisted of methotrexate at 50 mg/m2 orally every 6 hours for five doses followed by infusions of 5-FU, 500 mg/m2 IV, and leucovorin, 10 mg/m2 orally, every 6 hours for five doses every other week. A total of 265 patients were entered into the trial, of whom 249 (94%) were fully evaluable. The objective response rate (complete [CR] plus partial [PR] responses) was 17.3% on arm A, 18.8% on arm B, and 19.8% on arm C (log-rank test, P greater than .4). The median time to failure was 138 days on arm A, 166 days on arm B, and 182 days on arm C (log-rank test, P values of arm A v B = .06; arm A v arm C = .04). Median survival was 345 days on arm A, 324 days on arm B, and 356 days on arm C (log-rank test, P greater than .4). Treatment with 5-FU alone was significantly more dose intensive and more toxic than either of the experimental combinations. The rates of grade 3 or greater nonhematologic toxicity were 42.3% on arm A, 24.3% on arm B, and 14.3% on arm C. Hematologic toxicity was milder but had the same pattern. This study indicates that these regimens of high-dose leucovorin plus 5-FU and sequential methotrexate, 5-FU, and leucovorin are not more effective than is 5-FU alone for treatment of patients with colorectal carcinomas when 5-FU is administered at high-dose intensity.