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BACKGROUND: QUASAR is a large trial of adjuvant chemotherapy for colorectal cancer in which clinicians could choose to deliver a standard adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy regimen, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and L-folinic acid (L-FA), in either a once-weekly or a four-weekly schedule. We report results of a non-randomised comparison between these schedules with respect to survival, recurrence and differential toxicity. PATIENTS AND METHODS: In a factorial (2 x 2) trial design, QUASAR compared high-dose (175 mg) versus low-dose (25 mg) L-FA and levamisole versus placebo. The dose of 5-FU was fixed at 370 mg/m2 and although the recommended schedule was i.v. bolus delivery, daily for 5 days repeated four-weekly for 6 months, a significant proportion of randomising clinicians were constrained to deliver once-weekly 5-FU-L-FA for 30 weeks. RESULTS: Four thousand nine hundred twenty-seven patients were entered into QUASAR between May 1994 and October 1997, eighteen hundred twenty-nine of whom have recurred and sixteen hundred eighty-nine died. Similar numbers 2370 vs. 2559 were treated with the once-weekly and four-weekly schedules and the demographic features of the 2 groups were well balanced: stage C, 73.3% once-weekly vs. 71.0% four-weekly; colon, 68.0% vs. 68.3%; high-dose FA, 50.1% vs. 49.9%; levamisole, 49.3% vs. 49.3%; females, 40.2% vs. 41.7%; median age (years) 62 vs. 61. The risk of recurrence and survival were similar regardless of schedule: three-year survival was 70.6% once-weekly vs. 71.0% four-weekly; three-year recurrence risk was 35.6% once-weekly vs. 35.5% four-weekly; But, the once-weekly regimen was much less toxic: number of patients for whom toxicity was reported (once-weekly: four-weekly), stomatitis, 37 vs. 337; diarrhoea, 260 vs. 440; neutropenia, 20 vs. 153. CONCLUSIONS: The once-weekly regimen is much less toxic than and, apparently, about as effective as the four-weekly schedule. This suggests that the toxicity of 5-FU-L-FA adjuvant chemotherapy could be reduced substantially by weekly scheduling without compromising efficacy. Alternatively, efficacy might be enhanced with equal toxicity by more dose-intense weekly FU-L-FA regimens. However, this conclusion from a non-randomised comparison needs confirmation in prospective randomised studies.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Oncol

Publication Date





947 - 955


Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Colorectal Neoplasms, Combined Modality Therapy, Drug Administration Schedule, Female, Fluorouracil, Humans, Leucovorin, Levamisole, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Neoplasm Staging, Survival Analysis, Treatment Outcome