A chemotherapy pill is as effective for treating advanced colorectal cancer as intravenous treatment with a similar drug.
Patients taking the pill capecitabine survived just as long as those on standard chemotherapy, but the pill caused fewer side effects. Capecitabine is the oral form of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), the chemotherapy regimen most commonly used to treat advanced colorectal cancer.
Capecitabine is both convenient to use and produces fewer side effects, and that's a big attraction for patients. Given these results, patients slated to receive the chemotherapy drug 5-FU could consider receiving it in pill form rather than through an IV.
Capecitabine, sold as Xeloda by New Jersey-based Roche Laboratories, has been approved by the FDA to treat breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast and is resistant to standard chemotherapy. Unlike intravenous 5-FU, which is active throughout the body, capecitabine is designed to target tumor cells directly.
Patients taking the oral drug were significantly more likely to respond to treatment than those on standard chemotherapy, and side effects, including diarrhoea, hair loss, nausea and gastrointestinal tract ulcers, were less common in patients taking the pill, particularly during the first few months of treatment. Patients in the capecitabine group were also less likely to be hospitalized due to side effects.