The Use of Thymidylate Synthase Inhibitors in the Treatment of Advanced Colorectal Cancer
Enormous efforts have been made over the years to improve the efficacy of 5-FU, the most popular of these agents. Biochemical modulation by leucovorin has been the most successful so far. Continuous infusion schedules also appear to be advantageous over bolus administration. However, marked intra- and interpatient variability, combined with nonlinear elimination kinetics and erratic oral bioavailability are relative limitations to further development of 5-FU. New oral 5-FU prodrugs such as UFT, S-1, and Capecitabine may help to overcome some of these difficulties. Eniluracil, a potent inhibitor of the enzyme dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase, may also help by overcoming potential 5- FU resistance mechanisms, in addition to increasing its bioavailability. Of the antifolate-based inhibitors, Tomudex is in the most advanced stage of development. Similar efficacy with 5-FU and a convenient schedule may suggest a role in future combination regimens.
It is quite likely that even the most optimal thymidylate synthase inhibition will have limitations in terms of clinical efficacy. Novel combinations of 5-FU or its analogs with agents that have different mechanisms of action (e.g., oxaliplatin, irinotecan) could provide important new opportunities for improving the outlook of patients with colorectal cancer.