“I think it’s essential that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”
A trial looking at different ways of having chemotherapy after surgery for bowel cancer (PACT)
This trial was comparing chemotherapy through a drip into a vein with chemotherapy tablets after surgery to remove bowel cancer that was Dukes stage B or C.
Doctors often treat bowel cancer with surgery followed by chemotherapy. There are different ways of having chemotherapy – either as a drip into a vein (intravenous chemotherapy) or as tablets.
Doctors knew that both ways of having chemotherapy worked about as well as each other. The aims of this trial were to
- Learn more about the side effects of each treatment
- Find out which treatment patients preferred
Summary of results
The researchers found that more people preferred the intravenous chemotherapy.
The researchers planned to recruit 74 people. The people taking part were put into the treatment groups at random. Neither they nor their doctor could decide which treatment they had first. This is called randomisation.
- Half would have had fluorouracil, along with a vitamin called
folinic acidthrough a drip into a vein for 6 weeks, followed by capecitabine tablets for 6 weeks
- Half would have had capecitabine tablets for 6 weeks first, followed by the fluorouracil and folinic acid intravenous chemotherapy
But after 40 people had started treatment, the trial was stopped because capecitabine tablets were causing much worse side effects than chemotherapy through a drip into a vein.
The side effects included diarrhoea, sore or red hands and feet (plantar-palmar syndrome) and tiredness.
Side effects were particularly bad when people started having capecitabine tablets after they had finished the intravenous chemotherapy. The researchers suggest that doctors need to be cautious if changing people’s treatment from chemotherapy that includes fluorouracil and folinic acid to chemotherapy that includes capecitabine tablets.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor Matt Seymour
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
University of Leeds
If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses
Freephone 0808 800 4040