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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Chemotherapy and Colon Cancer
My father had colon cancer for 8 years and eventually died from a liver metastasis. One of the things about his disease that really surprised me was that he was told that chemotherapy wasn’t considered to be an effect treatment for his cancer. Have there been any new discoveries about the effectiveness of chemotherapy in treating colon cancer?
Hello, I'm sorry for my delay in replying. Until 1996 there was only one chemotherapy that worked against colon cancer and that is a drug called 5-FU. It was minimally active, e.g. improved survival for patients with metastatic disease by about 4 months. Since then there are two other chemotherapies and two types of biologic agents that have been approved for colorectal cancer. With the availability of more drugs for colorectal cancer, patients with metastatic disease are living longer. Current treatment improves survival for patients with metastatic disease by 1-2 years. Chemotherapy can increase the cure rate when used after surgery, e.g. for patients with disease that has traveled to nearby lymph nodes. However, surgery is really the most important treatment for colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy alone is not a cure for this disease.
Smitha S Krishnamurthi, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University