Preclinical and clinical aspects of biomodulation of 5-fluorouracil

Cancer Treat Rev. 1994 Jan;20(1):11-49. doi: 10.1016/0305-7372(94)90009-4.


Although single agent 5-FU has for many years been the standard therapy for advanced colorectal malignancies, a number of recent clinical trials show higher response rates with biomodulation of 5-FU by several different agents. In general, trials of leucovorin, methotrexate, interferon, and PALA given in biomodulatory doses and sequences with 5-FU have demonstrated comparable response rates over a broad range. However, in the absence of controlled direct comparative phase III trials, final judgement on clinical superiority of a particular regimen must be reserved. Nevertheless, on the basis of current data, certain approaches appear promising and warrant further investigation. Compared to single agent 5-FU, survival benefit has been demonstrated with both low and high dose leucovorin/5-FU regimens and response rates in the 20-50% range appear reproducibly higher than those of 5-FU alone. Low dose and either continuous infusion or repetitive dosing of leucovorin, as well as the effect of treatment sequence and intervals between drugs, require additional investigation. When given 20-24 h before 5-FU, methotrexate achieves response rates similar to leucovorin modulated 5-FU, but the potential role of rescue leucovorin used in many of the trials makes definitive interpretation difficult. Interferon/5-FU regimens attaining response rates of 30-40% are promising but need to be carefully and rationally designed. Low dose PALA with effective doses of 5-FU achieving responses in 35-45% of patients represent a marked improvement in earlier trials of high dose PALA, but additional studies with higher doses not compromising 5-FU dose intensity should be considered. Certainly, the concomitant use of multiple modulating agents also needs further investigation. While many such trials already performed attained results no better than single agent biomodulation, the preliminary results obtained by Grem and colleagues with IFN/LV/5-FU in untreated patients, and by Conti et al. using TMTX/LV/5-FU in previously treated patients are encouraging. Further understanding of the mechanisms of action and interaction of modulating agents should allow additional rational combinations to be explored clinically. Cisplatin biomodulation of 5-FU has been studied in gastrointestinal and head and neck malignancies achieving excellent results in the latter group. Preclinical evidence exists which suggests, however, that 5-FU modulation of cisplatin may be more effective, especially when 5-FU is administered 24 h or more before cisplatin. Clinical investigation of this sequence is currently lacking. Data to support the clinical promise of AZT, IdUrd, uridine, and the benzylacyclouridines are not yet available, although preclinical and preliminary clinical studies are promising.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Aspartic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / pharmacology
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • DNA, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Fluorouracil / metabolism
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Fluorouracil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Idoxuridine / pharmacology
  • Idoxuridine / therapeutic use
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology*
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Interferons / pharmacology
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Leucovorin / pharmacology
  • Leucovorin / therapeutic use
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid / pharmacology
  • RNA, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Uracil / analogs & derivatives
  • Uracil / pharmacology
  • Uridine / pharmacology
  • Uridine / therapeutic use
  • Zidovudine / pharmacology
  • Zidovudine / therapeutic use


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Immunologic Factors
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • 5-benzylacyclouridine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Zidovudine
  • Uracil
  • sparfosic acid
  • Interferons
  • Idoxuridine
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid
  • Cisplatin
  • Leucovorin
  • Fluorouracil
  • Uridine
  • Methotrexate