Purpose: This study was designed to evaluate the efficacy of leucovorin-modulated fluorouracil (5-FU) as adjuvant therapy for patients with Dukes' stage B and C colon cancer.
Patients and methods: Data are presented from 1,081 patients with Dukes' stage B and C carcinoma of the colon entered into National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) protocol C-03 between August 1987 and April 1989. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either lomustine (MeCCNU), vincristine, and 5-FU (MOF), or leucovorin-modulated 5-FU (LV + 5-FU). The mean time on study was 47.6 months.
Results: Comparison between the two groups indicates a disease-free survival advantage for patients treated with LV + 5-FU (P = .0004). The 3-year disease-free survival rate for patients in this group was 73% (95% confidence interval, 69% to 77%), compared with 64% (95% confidence interval, 60% to 68%) for patients receiving MOF. The corresponding percentage of patients surviving was 84% for those randomized to receive LV + 5-FU and 77% for the MOF-treated cohort (P = .003). At 3 years of follow-up, patients treated with postoperative LV + 5-FU had a 30% reduction in the risk of developing a treatment failure and a 32% reduction in mortality risk compared with similar patients treated with MOF.
Conclusion: Treatment with LV + 5-FU significantly prolongs disease-free survival and results in a significant benefit relative to overall survival. These findings, when considered together with results from a recent meta-analysis demonstrating a benefit from LV + 5-FU in advanced disease, provide evidence to support the concept of metabolic modulation of 5-FU.