Biological therapy and other novel therapies in early-stage disease: are they appropriate?

Department of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.

For nearly two decades, adjuvant chemotherapy has been the standard of care in patients with early-stage colon cancer at high risk of recurrence. Until now, treatment has been based on the use of cytotoxic drugs that have well-demonstrated efficacy in advanced colorectal cancer. Most recently, targeted biological agents [i.e., antibodies against the epidermal growth factor receptor and vascular endothelial growth factor] have become essential components of the palliative medical treatment of colorectal cancer. Proof of efficacy of these agents in advanced disease has led to the initiation of several trials testing epidermal growth factor receptor and vascular endothelial growth factor antibodies in the adjuvant setting. Although definitive results of ongoing adjuvant studies will not be available for 2 to 3 years, some oncologists might already inappropriately consider the use of these targeted agents as a component of adjuvant therapy in selected patients. Whether the results obtained in advanced colorectal cancer can be readily translated into a projected efficacy in early-stage colon cancer, however, is unclear. In addition, the long-term safety of biological agents in potentially surgically cured patients has not yet been established. This review discusses the potential caveats and concerns associated with the uncritical use of targeted agents as adjuvant therapy before their safety and efficacy in this setting has been indisputably established in definitive phase III trials.

PMID: 18006799 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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