[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Options for single-agent fluoropyrimidine adjuvant therapy after bowel cancer resection include intravenous fluorouracil with leucovorin (FU/LV) or oral capecitabine. These treatments have similar efficacy but differ in convenience and toxicity. We therefore wished to compare their overall acceptability to patients.
Patients scheduled for adjuvant single-agent fluoropyrimidine therapy were randomly assigned to receive once-weekly FU/LV (425 mg/m(2) FU, 45 mg LV) for 6 weeks, followed by two 3-week cycles of capecitabine (1,250 mg/m(2) twice daily, days 1 through 14), or the same treatments but in reverse order. After 12 weeks, the patients were asked which treatment they preferred, and received the preferred treatment for an additional 12 weeks. The primary end point was patient preference.
After 40 of the planned 74 patients had been randomly assigned, real-time adverse event monitoring led to early trial closure because of excess sequence-specific toxicity. Eleven of 14 patients (79%) receiving capecitabine as their second treatment experienced grade >/= 3 toxicity. This compared with five of 18 patients (28%) receiving capecitabine as the first treatment, and no patients receiving FU/LV as the first treatment (zero of 16) or the second treatment (zero of 12). Similar imbalances were seen in the proportion of patients requiring interruption of treatment.
In chemotherapy-naïve patients, capecitabine produced more toxicity than FU/LV, but at levels in line with previously reported data. However, treatment with capecitabine after FU/LV caused markedly increased toxicity, indicating a sequence-specific interaction. The mechanism has not been determined, but interaction with intracellularly retained folate after FU/LV therapy is a possibility. Oncologists need to be aware of this risk if considering crossing patients over from FU/LV to capecitabine-based regimens.