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Joseph Rosales and Lucille A. Leong

The past decade has seen a significant survival improvement for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, fueled in large part by the arrival of active novel chemotherapeutic drugs and their incorporation into combination regimens. Several randomized trials have successfully integrated oxaliplatin and irinotecan into previously existing 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based regimens for advanced colorectal cancer, resulting in median survivals that have risen from 9 months to almost 2 years. Even as the ideal combinations and sequences of these regimens are elucidated, targeted therapies such as recently approved bevacizumab and cetuximab have been added to treatment protocols, with favorable consequences. We review the evolution of primary chemotherapy for advanced colorectal cancer, focusing on the trials that have led to the new standard first-line treatments. We also review the data on newer targeted therapies, especially in combination with cytotoxic therapy.