Triple Chemotherapy Combination that Effectively Treats Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

Research shows that a triple drug combination of irinotecan, cetuximab, and vemurafenib keeps patients with metastatic colorectal cancer disease free for an appreciably longer period of time compared with patients treated with irinotecan and cetuximab. The findings were published in Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) and will be accompanied by an editorial in JCO in January 2021.

In this study, researchers SWOG Cancer Research Network, found that two targeted drugs -cetuximab and encorafenib – significantly reduced tumor size and helped patients live longer compared with those who received standard treatment. The team also assessed the efficacy of combination therapies in 106 patients whose metastatic colorectal cancer includes a V600E mutation – a mutation in the BRAF gene. The team randomly assigned study participants to one of two treatment groups – those who received irinotecan and cetuximab and those who received that combination with a third drug, vemurafenib.

According to the results of the study, patients who received the triple combination had better tumor response rates to the drugs (17% vs. 4%) – and stayed cancer-free longer.


“That 1-2-3 action, that triple threat, shuts off a powerful growth pathway in these cancers,” said Scott Kopetz, MD, PhD, of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center via a press release about the study. “In this trial, unlike in BEACON, we added chemo and found that it makes for a more effective way to treat this aggressive form of colorectal cancer.”