The benefit of adjuvant therapy in curatively resected lymph node-positive colon cancer was established using 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and levamisole (LEV) for 12 months. 5-FU cytotoxicity can be modulated by folinic acid (FA) or interferon-α (INF-α). The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of modulating 5-FU+ LEV by either FA or IFN-α in the adjuvant treatment of high-risk colon cancer.
Patients with curatively resected colon cancer (stages UICC IIb and III) were stratified according to T, N, and participating center and randomized to receive a 12-month treatment using 5-FU + LEV alone or in combination with FA or IFN-α.
A total of 855 of 904 entered patients (94.6%) were eligible. The median follow-up of all eligible patients was 4.6 years. Addition of FA to 5-FU + LEV improved recurrence-free and overall survival in comparison with 5-FU + LEV alone (P = 0.007 and P = 0.004, respectively, 1-sided). The 5-year overall survival rates were 60.5% (95% confidence interval, 54.3–66.7) and 72.0% (95% confidence interval, 66.5–77.5) for 5-FU + LEV and 5-FU + LEV + FA, respectively. Addition of INF-α showed a tendency to improve recurrence-free survival, however, without altering overall survival. Toxicities (WHO III + IV) were generally tolerable except one toxic death in the control arm and were observed in 9.9% of the patients receiving 5-FU + LEV alone and in 13.3% and in 30.7% of patients receiving additional FA and IFN-α, respectively.
Addition of IFN-α was associated with increased toxicity without markedly influencing the outcome and should therefore not be recommended for adjuvant treatment. Addition of FA increased the 5-year recurrence-free and overall survival rate by 9.3 and 11.5 percentage points, respectively. 5-FU + LEV + FA for 12 months may be an effective adjuvant treatment option for locally advanced high-risk colon cancer.