Importance: Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) have limited effective and tolerable treatment options.
Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of oral fruquintinib, a vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) inhibitor, as third-line or later therapy in patients with metastatic CRC.
Design, setting, and participants: FRESCO (Fruquintinib Efficacy and Safety in 3+ Line Colorectal Cancer Patients) was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter (28 hospitals in China), phase 3 clinical trial. From December 2014 to May 2016, screening took place among 519 patients aged 18 to 75 years who had metastatic CRC that progressed after at least 2 lines of chemotherapy but had not received VEGFR inhibitor therapy; 416 met the eligibility criteria and were stratified by prior anti-VEGF therapy and K-ras status. The final date of follow-up was January 17, 2017.
Interventions: Patients were randomized in a 2:1 ratio to receive either fruquintinib, 5 mg (n = 278) or placebo (n = 138) orally, once daily for 21 days, followed by 7 days off in 28-day cycles, until disease progression, intolerable toxicity, or study withdrawal.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was overall survival. Key secondary efficacy endpoints were progression-free survival (time from randomization to disease progression or death), objective response rate (confirmed complete or partial response), and disease control rate (complete or partial response, or stable disease recorded ≥8 weeks postrandomization). Duration of response was also assessed. Safety outcomes included treatment-emergent adverse events.
Results: Of the 416 randomized patients (mean age, 54.6 years; 161 [38.7%] women), 404 (97.1%) completed the trial. Median overall survival was significantly prolonged with fruquintinib compared with placebo (9.3 months [95% CI, 8.2-10.5] vs 6.6 months [95% CI, 5.9-8.1]); hazard ratio (HR) for death, 0.65 (95% CI, 0.51-0.83; P < .001). Median progression-free survival was also significantly increased with fruquintinib (3.7 months [95% CI, 3.7-4.6] vs 1.8 months [95% CI, 1.8-1.8] months); HR for progression or death, 0.26 (95% CI, 0.21 to 0.34; P < .001). Grades 3 and 4 treatment-emergent adverse events occurred in 61.2% (170) of patients who received fruquintinib and 19.7% (27) who received placebo. Serious adverse events were reported by 15.5% (43) of patients in the fruquintinib group and 5.8% (8) in the placebo group, with 14.4% (40) of fruquintinib-treated and 5.1% (7) of placebo-treated patients requiring hospitalization.
Conclusions and relevance: Among Chinese patients with metastatic CRC who had tumor progression following at least 2 prior chemotherapy regimens, oral fruquintinib compared with placebo resulted in a statistically significant increase in overall survival. Further research is needed to assess efficacy outside of China.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02314819.