Chemotherapy Duration for Various Indications in Colorectal Cancer: a Review

Curr Oncol Rep. 2023 Apr;25(4):341-352. doi: 10.1007/s11912-023-01378-5. Epub 2023 Feb 13.


Purpose of review: The treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC) has evolved and become more personalized during the past several years. For example, depotentiation/reduced duration of systemic therapies has proven to be beneficial in both advanced and early stages of the disease.

Recent findings: In particular, recent randomized studies of stage III and high-risk stage II CRC showed that a shorter duration (3 months), when compared to the historical 6-month comparator, provides nearly similar overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS). In the setting of advanced, inoperable CRC, a relatively short induction phase (six to eight cycles) followed by biological agents is the current standard of care in RAS wild-type (wt). versus RAS mutated cases. With regard to potentially operable stage IV disease (with the aim of converting liver metastases to operability), a relatively short number of cycles (four to six cycles) should be offered with re-staging and re-evaluation for surgery as soon as possible in most cases. For inoperable liver metastases, a relatively intensive triplet or doublet plus targeted therapy may attain conversion in some cases and may even result in cure. Rectal cancer treatment continues to be a complex disease in terms of treatment and oncological results. Recent data seem to showcase the benefits of more prolonged sequential strategies (total neoadjuvant therapy, all treatment delivered before surgery, to reduce the risk of distant metastases and local control). In recent years, different strategies regarding treatment intensity have been employed in CRC in adjuvant and metastatic setting. Introduction of triplets as first-line therapy for colon cancer and as induction phase for rectal cancer are now therapeutic options. Conversely in stage II disease or low-risk stage III resected CRC, a reduced chemotherapy length is a new standard of care.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Colorectal cancer; Duration; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / secondary
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Fluorouracil