Chemotherapy Drugs and Regimens
Seven drugs are currently approved for colorectal cancer chemotherapy:
- 5-fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil), which is often given in combination with leucovorin (Wellcovorin). Leucovorin is a vitamin that helps boost the effectiveness of 5-FU.
- Capecitabine (Xeloda)
- Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
- Irinotecan (Camptosar)
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
- Cetuximab (Erbitux)
- Panitumumab (Vectibix)
Capecitabine is a pill form of 5-FU. The other drugs are administered intravenously. Many of these drugs are given in combination with each other. Common chemotherapy combination regimens include:
- 5-FU / LV (5-FU and leucovorin)
- FOLFOX (5-FU with leucovorin and oxaliplatin)
- FOLFORI (5-FU with leucovorin and irinotecan)
- IFL (Irinotecan, 5-FU, leucovorin)
- XELOX (Capecitabine and oxaliplatin)
Side effects occur with all chemotherapeutic drugs. They are more severe with higher doses and increase over the course of treatment. Because cancer cells grow and divide rapidly, chemotherapy drugs work by killing fast-growing cells. This means that healthy cells that multiply quickly can also be affected. The fast-growing normal cells most likely to be affected are blood cells forming in the bone marrow, and cells in the digestive tract, reproductive system, and hair follicles.
Nausea and vomiting are very common side effects, but drugs such as ondansetron (Zofran) can help provide relief. In general, side effects are nearly always temporary, and medications can help manage them.
Review Date: 10/21/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.