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Colorectal liver metastases.
  1. D. Burke,
  2. T. G. Allen-Mersh
  1. Department of Surgery, Chelsea and Westminister Hospital, London, UK.


    Each year in the UK, between 12-14,000 people develop liver metastases from colorectal cancer. These metastases will contribute to the death of the patient in about 80% of cases. Treatments aimed at these tumours are best administered when the tumour is small. Current investigative methods allow tumours as small as 0.5 mm to be detected, and should be offered to all colorectal cancer patients at risk of developing liver metastases. Surgery remains the only curative treatment for these tumours, but, unfortunately, only 20% of those who have tumour excision will survive five years. In those patients unsuitable for surgery, chemotherapy with fluoropyrimidines produces the best tumour response. This may be administered systemically or regionally, via a catheter placed within the hepatic artery. The latter approach reduces systemic toxicity, but may produce hepatotoxicity. The results of other forms of systemic chemotherapy currently undergoing clinical trials are awaited. The vast majority of patients will benefit from suitable palliative treatment delivered either locally or systemically. With the wide range of treatments now available for liver metastases, these patients are best assessed in a unit with a special interest in the problem.

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