Adjuvant therapy for stage II colon cancer after complete resection. Provincial Gastrointestinal Disease Site Group. Academic Article uri icon

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  • GUIDELINE QUESTION: Should patients with resected stage II colon cancer receive adjuvant therapy? OBJECTIVE: To make recommendations regarding the use of adjuvant therapy in the treatment of resected stage II colon cancer. OUTCOMES: Overall survival is the primary outcome of interest. Secondary outcomes are disease-free survival and adverse effects of the treatment regimens. PERSPECTIVE (VALUES): Evidence was selected and reviewed by 2 members of the Provincial Gastrointestinal Disease Site Group (GI DSG) of the Cancer Care Ontario Practice Guidelines Initiative. The recommendations resulting from this review have been approved by the GI DSG, which comprise medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons and epidemiologists. Community representatives did not participate in the development of this practice guideline but will do so in future guidelines development. QUALITY OF EVIDENCE: There are 25 published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 1 meta-analysis. The GI DSG pooled data from 11 of the 25 RCTs that provided adequate data. BENEFITS: The 25 RCTs are grouped according to the type of therapy and whether the control patients received no treatment (observation) or other adjuvant therapy after resection. Because the trials usually included patients with stage II and III cancer, the complete trial results and those for a subset of patients with stage II disease were analysed. Although the overall trial results showed a survival benefit for adjuvant treatments, the benefit was not significant for stage II patients. A meta-analysis of 11 trials comparing adjuvant treatment with observation in patients with stage II cancer indicated no significant reduction in the odds ratio (OR) for death (OR 0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.62 to 1.10). The OR for death among patients receiving chemotherapy by portal vein infusion (PVI) was 0.62 (95% CI 0.35 to 1.11). HARMS: The toxic effects of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) with either levamisole or leucovorin, or both, were mild to moderate and consisted mostly of stomatitis, diarrhea and myelosuppression; 5% of patients required hospital admission. 5-FU plus levamisole was associated with transient neurotoxic effects in 18% of patients. Toxic effects associated with PVI were mild, rare and mostly consisted of leukopenia and diarrhea; 1% of patients experienced bowel perforation. PRACTICE GUIDELINE: Adjuvant therapy is not recommended at this time for the routine management of patients with resected stage II colon cancer. Patients with stage II disease and high-risk factors (bowel obstruction, tumour adhesion, invasion, perforation or aneuploidy) have a poorer prognosis, similar to that of patients with stage III colon cancer. For individual management, these patients should be made aware of their prognosis; treatment can be considered after the uncertainty of the value of adjuvant therapy has been explained to the patient. The enrolment of patients with high-risk stage II disease in clinical trials is encouraged. Trials comparing adjuvant therapy with observation are needed and are ethically acceptable in stage II colon cancer.


  • Figueredo, A
  • Germond, C
  • Maroun, J
  • Browman, George
  • Walker-Dilks, C
  • Wong, S

publication date

  • December 1997