Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to stop
cancer's growth or relieve symptoms. Sometimes chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors in the liver so they can be removed with surgery.
The medicines may be given through a needle
in your vein, as pills you can swallow, or as a shot (injection). For colorectal cancer that has spread to
the liver, researchers are studying ways to deliver chemotherapy directly to the liver.
Several medicines are used to
metastatic or recurrent colorectal cancer. Other medicines are
also available to treat side effects, such as nausea.
The most commonly used medicines for the treatment of
colorectal cancer are:
Cancer medicines are often used in combination. For example,
a treatment called FOLFOX4 uses oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and fluorouracil,
while the treatment called FOLFIRI uses folic acid, fluorouracil, and
irinotecan. There are several of these specific combinations.
Cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix) may be
used for colorectal cancer that has spread and has not improved during or
after treatment with other drugs. These kinds of medicines, called
monoclonal antibodies, may not work for some people.
So before you have this treatment, your tumor tissue will be checked for
certain gene changes (mutations).
Your doctor may prescribe
medicines to control nausea and vomiting. These medicines
- Aprepitant (Emend), which is used in
combination with other medicines to prevent nausea and vomiting.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan).
- Phenothiazines, such as promethazine and
- Serotonin antagonists, such as ondansetron (Zofran),
granisetron (Kytril), or dolasetron (Anzemet). These medicines prevent nausea
and vomiting caused by chemotherapy more effectively when they are combined
with corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone.
Clinical trials that test new drugs are ongoing. Talk
with your doctor about participating in a clinical trial.