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Durable Complete Responses in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Treated with Chemotherapy Alone

Clinical Colorectal Cancer
Publication Date
  • Metastatic Colorectal Cancer
  • Durable Complete Response
  • Cure With Chemotherapy
  • Medicine


Background/Purpose: The median survival for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) has progressively increased over the past decades. Since the introduction of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemotherapy, followed by hepatic resection of metastases, and more recently the adoption of newer chemotherapeutic regimens associated with targeted therapy, the gains are getting more substantial. Despite the recognition of the potential for long-term survival after surgical resection of metastatic disease, long-term survival data to determine the potential curative role of chemotherapy alone is lacking. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of 2751 patients who presented with mCRC at The MD Anderson Cancer Center from 1990 through 2003. Patients alive at 5 years who achieved complete response with chemotherapy and were not submitted to any surgical or interventional procedures directed to the metastatic sites were included in the analysis. Results: The 5-year overall survival rate for all patients with mCRC during this period was 10.8%. Among these long-term survivors, 2.2% achieved a sustained complete response after chemotherapy (all 6 with fluoropyrimidines and 2 with irinotecan) as the only treatment modality and were without evidence of disease until the last follow-up visit (median of 10.3 years). This number corresponds to 0.24% (6 of 2541) of all patients with mCRC included in this review. Conclusion: Cure with chemotherapy alone is possible for a very small number of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. Improved therapies are increasing complete response rates, but the impact of modern chemotherapy on durable complete responses will require additional follow up.

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