eating metastases tr BOWEL CANCER ADVANCED

treating metastases
When bowel cancer spreads outside
the bowel to distant parts of the
body, these areas of spread are called
‘metastases’ or ‘secondary cancers’.
They are still made up of bowel cancer
cells and behave in the same way as
the original, primary cancer in your
bowel. Cancer that has spread to other
parts of the body is described as being
advanced disease, and may need the
experience and skills of a number of
specialist doctors and nurses to help
you manage the symptoms and find
the best treatment pathway for your
own individual circumstances.
This booklet has been produced with
the generous support of a number of
specialist doctors, nurses and expert
patients. We are also grateful to our
Bowel Cancer Voices who share their
stories. We aim to give you some
understanding of what is possible,
so that you can begin to think about
what you want for yourself (or your
family member) from the treatments
currently available.
Thank you to Sanofi, who provided an
educational grant to cover production
of this booklet. Beating Bowel Cancer
retains editorial control of the content.
Understanding advanced disease
Patient stories
The treatment pathway
Treatment options and clinical trials
Planning the right treatment for you
Treatment options: chemotherapy
Specialist referrals and second opinions 24
Treatment options: targeted therapies
Limitations and side-effects
of treatment
Patient story
When bowel cancer spreads to the liver 27
Treatment options: RFA
Patient stories
Treatment options: SIRT
When bowel cancer spreads to the lungs 30
Novel treatment options
When bowel cancer spreads
to the peritoneum
Treatment options: peritoneum
Other sites for bowel cancer spread
Questions to ask
Treatment options: liver surgery
Further support and useful contacts
Treatment options: lung surgery
Support our work
advanced disease
Bowel cancer can spread through the
body in a number of different ways.
When cancer cells break away from
the primary tumour in the bowel, they
can travel around in the blood stream
or in lymph fluid, getting caught up in
other organs, lymph glands or on the
lining of the abdominal cavity, called
the peritoneum.
Advanced bowel cancer commonly
causes metastatic spread to the liver
and /or the lungs. Sometimes, it can
also spread locally into the abdomen.
Less commonly, it may spread to the
bones and brain.
© Christian Josef - [email protected]
We know that there is a common
pattern in the way that bowel cancer
spreads in the body. The name
given to this kind of bowel cancer
is ‘metastatic’ and each new area
of growth away from the primary
tumour is known as a ‘metastasis’.
• As tumours grow in the bowel, the
chances of them spreading to the blood
and lymph fluid are increased
• Bowel cancer can spread to other
organs in the body
the treatment pathway
The multi-disciplinary team is a group
of doctors, nurses and other healthcare
professionals who work together to
investigate, treat and support you on
your bowel cancer journey. You will
start off in the care of the colorectal
team, but if you have been diagnosed
with cancer that has spread to another
part of your body, then it is likely
that your case will also be referred
to other specialist multi-disciplinary
teams for an expert opinion, so that
all the possible treatment options
can be considered. This might be a
liver (hepato-biliary) specialist team,
a lung (thoracic) specialist team, or
other specialist surgeons or doctors
who may be able to offer professional
insight and experience.
the possibilities and timescales. Your
colorectal nurse specialist is likely to
be your keyworker, and the person
who will coordinate this process on
your behalf.
For more information on multidisciplinary team members, please
refer to our booklet ‘Bowel Cancer
Treatment - Your Pathway’.
This process can often take several
weeks, and you may need further
investigations – scans and other tests
– before a decision can be made about
“When they first told me I had metastases I hardly knew anything about
bowel cancer, let alone metastases. I had never heard the word before; it
never registered. What I did hear was STAGE 4 ADVANCED CANCER, NO
CURE. I immediately assumed that this meant I was ‘terminal’. I was alone
with the clinical nurse specialist, one I didn’t know. My mind was fighting
with itself, wondering how long I had left - did I dare ask? - but I did pluck
up the courage to ask and THEN metastases were explained to me. I was
gobsmacked when she said she’d known patients with my diagnosis – with
metastases on both my lungs and liver - who were still alive at five years,
so then I thought I might at least see the year out!“
Alison, 58
planning the
right treatment for you
Everyone diagnosed with a cancer will
go on to have a series of tests which
are used to work out if the cancer is
likely to spread. These might include
a series of blood tests to check your
liver function (LFTs) and your CEA
level (a tumour marker), and a CT
scan of your chest and abdomen. If
you have suspected liver metastases,
then you will also need to have an MRI
scan that looks specifically at your
liver, and most importantly the blood
vessels that supply it. If the results of
these tests suggest that there may be
active disease hidden elsewhere in
the body, then you may also have a
PET scan.
These scans are then looked at
carefully by the specialist team(s)
responsible for those particular parts
of your body, to see if you would be
a good candidate for surgery. This
might be possible straight away, or
perhaps could be considered later,
after some initial oncology treatments
to shrink the tumours and make them
easier to remove.
At the same time, there should be a
request made to test a sample of tissue
from your bowel cancer to find out if
it has a particular genetic signature.
This test, known as a KRAS test, is
important because it helps your doctors
decide which treatment options are
most likely to work for you.
Patients with tumours in the liver
which could be operable if they were
successfully shrunk down can be
given chemotherapy and targeted
therapies (also known as monoclonal
antibodies). Some patients who have a
normal KRAS gene known as wild type
may also benefit from a drug called
cetuximab (Erbitux) (see page 24).
For more information please see our
factsheet ‘KRAS and BRAF Testing’.
specialist referrals and
second opinions
Referral to the specialist teams will
normally happen automatically as part
of the multi-disciplinary team process.
If you have not been told who will be
involved in your care, and which other
specialist teams have reviewed your
case, then do ask your clinical nurse
specialist or your consultant.
If your case has not been referred to
another specialist team for an opinion
on your metastatic disease, then it
is important to ask why this has not
been done.
If you are not sure that your doctors
have acted in your best interests,
or you want reassurance that you
have been offered the best possible
treatment plan, you have the right to
ask for a second opinion from another
specialist at a different hospital.
It is important to remember, however,
that a second opinion may not
necessarily change the outcome in
terms of which treatment you have.
It may also delay the start of your
treatment, while you wait for an
appointment with the new consultant.
“I had my first operation for bowel cancer some five years ago, but two years
after my first diagnosis a new mass was found deep in my pelvis. A biopsy
was taken which confirmed that the cancer was back and I was referred to a
surgeon who specialised in treating this type of metastatic cancer.
My new specialist confirmed that he believed he could help me, although I
would need to have some chemotherapy and radiotherapy first, to shrink the
tumour. The news affected me psychologically. I think it was the difficulty of
coming to terms with the new diagnosis and having to tell family and friends
all over again - I felt that I would feel better when treatment started.
My physical symptoms were getting worse; I had low energy levels, nausea,
backache and the discharge had become worse. Blood tests showed I was well
enough to have a five week course of treatment. My hair thinned, but the other
side-effects were not as bad as I had feared - although the constant fatigue
made me feel as if I had run a marathon and I developed radiation cystitis (like
ordinary cystitis but hurts a lot more).
Three months later, I was scheduled for more surgery. It has been a very
difficult time for both me and my family but there is a saying that if you don’t
have bad days you won’t appreciate the good ones. I know that I still need
more treatment, but I have every confidence in my surgeon and will continue
to hope for a cure as long as he thinks it is possible. Whatever it throws at me
I can deal with it.”
Carol, 67
limitations and
side-effects of treatment
There are always going to be some
risks associated with any cancer
treatment. Your consultant or your
specialist nurse will be able to explain
what each treatment might involve,
and help you understand what shortterm side-effects to expect. It is also
important to think about the potential
for longer-term problems that might
arise as unintentional consequences
of treatment. Do ask these questions
before you sign your consent form,
so that you have time to consider all
your options and to explore the things
that may affect your recovery and your
quality of life in the future.
It is also worth considering what you
are hoping to achieve by having the
treatment, as this will give you the focus
and motivation you will need to cope
with it. For a small number of people,
with metastatic disease that is confined
to just a small area in the body, it is
now possible to talk about ‘curative’
treatment plans and to give hope for
a life free from bowel cancer. For the
majority of people, however, the most
likely scenario is that their treatment
will be described as ‘palliative’ – a
treatment plan which provides relief
from symptoms and aims to enhance
quality of life for as long as possible.
This does not necessarily mean that
time is short, however. In fact, it is
becoming increasingly possible to
continue to actively treat bowel cancer
patients with metastases, for as long
as they remain well enough to cope
with the treatments available, and
want to do so.
For more information about palliative
treatment, please refer to our factsheet
‘Palliative Care’.
when bowel cancer
spreads to the liver
When bowel cancer spreads to the
liver, the national treatment guidance
states that you should automatically
be referred to a specialist liver
consultant. His / her opinion will be
taken into account by your multidisciplinary team when they consider
your treatment options.
Where is the liver?
If you place your right hand over the
area under your ribs on the right side
of your body it will just about cover
the area of your liver.
The liver is connected to the first part
of the small bowel (duodenum) by a
tube called the bile duct. This duct
takes the bile produced by the liver to
the intestine.
Right lobe
Large bowel
What does the liver do?
The liver is the largest gland in the
body and has many functions, which
include processing digested food and
producing bile which is an important
digestive juice. The liver breaks down
the body’s waste products, which
would otherwise build up to toxic
levels. Many medicines are modified
in the liver or, having had their desired
effect, are broken down and removed.
Additionally, the liver has an amazing
ability to repair itself in a way that
most organs (the heart, lungs and
kidneys for example) do not. Following
surgery it will re-grow to its original
size in about three months.
Left lobe
when bowel cancer
spreads to the liver
The liver is made up of the larger
right lobe and a smaller left lobe. It
can also be thought about as eight
different segments, based on its
internal blood supply.
right liver
left liver
right lobe
bile duct
Liver metastases are very common
in people with advanced bowel
cancer, but they are also becoming
increasingly easier to treat. This
is done using a combination of
treatment options which can in some
cases provide a real chance of longterm survival from bowel cancer. The
outcomes of treatment will depend on
the pattern of spread of the disease,
the number of metastases found and
their position.
Conditions that can make liver
metastases more difficult to treat
tumours that sit close to major
blood vessels
lots of small metastases scattered
across both lobes of the liver
underlying problems with the
general condition of the liver,
including changes as a result of
previous treatment.
The liver multi-disciplinary team
In addition to your specialist colorectal
team, the specialist members of your
liver multi-disciplinary team are likely
to include:
hepato-biliary surgeons: surgeons
who specialise in operations on the
specialise in diagnosing and treating
liver disease
hepato-biliary nurse specialists:
nurses who have specialised skills
in caring for patients with liver
cancer and/or liver disease.
patient story
“My original
diagnosis was
of quite an
advanced bowel
cancer between
the rectum and
sigmoid colon,
and I had my first
round of surgery
more than 12
years ago now.
I remained clear
of cancer for
three years until
one of my blood
tests showed a
cancer marker
(CEA) to be raised. After further blood tests and a CT scan, I was diagnosed
with secondary bowel cancer in the liver. I was treated via a Hickman line
with chemotherapy (5FU and Oxaliplatin) with a view to shrinking the
two tumours to allow for surgery. The surgery took place at a specialist
centre with the intention of removing the remaining cancer. This, however,
was unsuccessful because follow-up scans showed that the re-grown
liver contained signs of another tumour. I had further scans (CT, PET and
colonoscopy) to check the cancer hadn’t spread further in my body, and had
surgery seven months later. This was followed by more chemotherapy (5FU
and Irinotecan) for a further three months, and since then I have remained in
remission as confirmed by regular blood tests and scans.
The most important source of support through living with cancer has been
my wife. My biggest fear and worry was leaving her unprovided for so one
of the first things I did after diagnosis was to put all my financial affairs
in order. I had tremendous support from friends and acquaintances which
was a real boost to my own positive attitude. My surgeon and his registrar
were supportive too, and were able to answer my incessant questions in a
satisfactory and timely fashion.”
Bob, 64
patient story
“Being diagnosed four years ago with rapidly spreading secondary liver
cancer, my prognosis from the oncologist was a severe blow and it took
time to get over the shock. Perhaps the immediate reassurance is that the
medical world will try their best to improve your life and you are not going
to be dumped on the scrap heap, but I had already started chemotherapy
before I finally understood what was happening - perhaps because the
sickness associated with this treatment was so physically and mentally
taxing. The way I coped with the nausea was by eating simple foods. I also
tried acupuncture and yoga classes which did help me to cope, although I
am not sure if it was a placebo effect or just a distraction. Having friends
I could reach out to - and rant off to every once in a while - also provided
cathartic release.
Each day I would try and set myself targets. Before my surgery I tried to get
as fit as possible, with regular exercise (long walks and cycling), and this gave
me a focus away from the impending surgery. After my operation, I found it
took about a month to get back to a level of reasonable activity – but even
when I was incapacitated I still tried to set myself mental challenges.
This is probably one of the most stressful and daunting experiences I have
ever lived through, but I’ve found it has made me mentally stronger, giving
me a new perspective on life. If your team are offering you this course of
treatment I would say hang in there; it’s tough but they are providing you
with the highest probability for survival.”
Bill, 47
when bowel cancer
spreads to the lungs
The lungs are the organs which allow
us to breathe. As blood passes through
the lungs oxygen is replenished and
carbon dioxide is cleared. All the
blood in the body (about five litres)
passes through the lungs in about
a minute. Bowel cancer cells in the
blood stream are likely to lodge in
the lungs. Lung metastases generally
cause no symptoms.
Metastases from bowel cancer
can grow as one or two isolated
tumours or scattered across both
lungs. The options for treatment of
lung metastases will depend on the
size and position of these tumours,
especially in relation to how close
they are to the large blood vessels that
supply the lungs.
Windpipe (trachea)
Lungs (divided into lobes)
Major blood vessels
when bowel
and feelings
the lungs
Specialists and tests
Metastases in the lungs are usually
diagnosed using a combination of
CT and PET scans. This combination
of specialist imaging techniques can
identify where the cancer is active,
and which structures in the lung are
involved. On its own, the CEA tumour
marker blood test is not an accurate
test for active metastases in the lungs.
Lung metastases do not usually give
you any symptoms. However, your
specialist team will want to know
if you experience any unexplained
symptoms that do not respond quickly
to treatment.
Patients with lung metastases from
bowel cancer may be offered surgical
removal if spread is limited to the
lungs, or if there is also spread to the
liver and it has been, or can be treated.
The treatment is likely to involve a
range of different techniques, and will
depend on your general health and
If you are diagnosed with lung
metastases, your case should
be referred to a specialist multidisciplinary
conditions as part of your treatment
plan. This should be done to ensure
that you are offered the best possible
treatment options as part of your
overall bowel cancer pathway.
This specialist team might include:
•thoracic surgeon
•clinical oncologist
•interventional radiologist
•lung clinical nurse specialist
•respiratory physician.
when bowel cancer
spreads to the peritoneum
Cancer cells can break off from the
main tumour and escape into the
abdomen, lodging between the lining
(the peritoneum) and the other organs
or tissues that are contained there.
When this happens, they can either
be reabsorbed into the lymph system,
becoming caught up in the lymph
nodes, or they can become embedded
and start to grow on the outside of
other organs in the abdomen or pelvis.
The symptoms of local spread of
bowel cancer can be vague, but are
likely to include unexplained pain,
tenderness over the area, or unusual
discharges, changed appetite or
unexpected weight loss. Bloating and
weight gain can be caused by fluid
collecting in the abdomen as a result
of cancer cells that have spread there.
© Christian Josef - [email protected]
All the organs in the abdomen
are contained inside a big sac or
membrane called the peritoneum.
Bowel cancer can spread through
blood and lymph circulation, or it
can spread directly inside this sac if a
tumour grows through the bowel wall
before it is diagnosed.
Recurrent bowel cancer that has
spread into the abdomen or pelvis is
more likely to be diagnosed via your
routine blood tests and CT scans,
especially in the early days following
your initial treatment.
Investigations may include an
ultrasound scan of the area, or an
abdominal MRI scan or a PET scan.
other sites for
bowel cancer spread
While it is much less common, it is
possible for bowel cancer to spread
from the bowel via the blood stream or
lymphatic system to other parts of the
body such as the brain or bones. In the
same way as in other areas of the body,
the cancer cells embed themselves into
the surrounding tissue and can start to
grow there, causing swelling which
then starts to press on other sensitive
areas. This can lead to unexplained
symptoms, including pain, restricted
movement and/or changes in levels of
energy and how well you feel generally.
Brain metastases are rare in bowel
cancer patients. They develop later in
the course of the disease, and usually
do not occur without previous spread
elsewhere in the body. Due to improved
treatment, more and more people are
living with spread of bowel cancer to
the more common areas, such as liver
and lungs. This may explain why there
appears to be an increasing incidence
of brain metastases from bowel cancer.
Current chemotherapy drugs are
not particularly effective for treating
tumours in the brain, and so other
treatments are usually considered
first. Surgery to remove the tumour/s
(neurosurgery) or radiotherapy to shrink
them may be a possibility, depending
on their number and position.
If you are diagnosed with brain
metastases, your case should be
forwarded on to the neurology
multi-disciplinary team so that
the best treatment options can be
considered before further discussion
with you.
What matters to you?
You will continue to have regular
follow-up appointments and tests
to monitor your condition and see
how you are feeling generally. These
appointments give you the chance to
discuss how you are coping, or any
concerns that you might have.
At any time in your treatment
pathway, you can say “stop” and
have a treatment holiday if you feel
that you have had enough for a while.
This will not be held against you, and
you will still be monitored regularly
by your specialist team who will work
together with you, and your family, to
support your wishes, making sure that
any new symptoms are investigated
and treated as they arise. It may be
that you are ‘living with’ your bowel
cancer and there is little likelihood of
a cure, but this does not mean that
you cannot have a good quality of life,
for as long as is possible.
treatment options:
liver surgery
The liver is an amazing organ and
has the ability to re-grow safely, even
if a large part of it is removed.
The surgery is usually done in
specialist hospitals where the
hepato-biliary teams have a lot of
experience and skill at performing
these operations, and in postoperative care. This might mean
that it is not available in your local
area, and you have to travel some
distance to have the surgery. If this is
the case, then it may also affect how
you feel about having the operation,
so it is important to talk through all
these things with your family as well
as with your doctors and nurses.
For some people, the operation is
straightforward and can be done
immediately. Other people may need
to have some chemotherapy or other
treatments first, to try and shrink
the tumours, making them easier to
remove. Alternatively, it may be that
you need to have another procedure,
called portal vein embolisation, done
first, to encourage a new healthy
segment of liver to grow before you
have the main surgery; this avoids
the risk of having to take away too
much of the liver in one operation.
In some cases, it may be possible
to have surgery which will remove
both sides of a diseased liver, one
lobe at a time. This can be done in
two separate operations scheduled
several weeks apart, provided you
are well enough to have the surgery
and that there are no other signs of
active disease in your body.
treatment options:
liver surgery
Surgery is scheduled in this way,
because your doctors want to be
sure that there is a good chance of a
successful outcome in terms of your
quality of life after the surgery, and
your long-term survival.
It is also possible to have repeat
surgery for liver metastases that
recur, provided the same assessment
criteria are met at the time the new
metastases are discovered.
The operation
Liver resections are usually performed
during ‘open’ surgery through an
incision in your abdomen, and can
take between three and seven hours.
It may sometimes be possible to
remove liver metastases by keyhole
(laparoscopic) surgery, although this
may not be an option if the size and/
or number of tumours would make
the operation too complex to be done
safely in this way. There may also be
times when laparoscopic surgery is
started, but the surgeons find that
they need to perform open surgery
to ensure they remove all the visible
cancer cells.
This is a major operation and you
will normally be admitted to a high
dependency unit or liver intensive
therapy unit for a day or so following
surgery. This allows you to be
monitored closely immediately after
the operation. You would normally
expect to stay in hospital for five to
seven days following liver surgery.
For more information about what to
expect after surgery, please refer to
our booklet ‘Bowel Cancer Surgery Your Operation’.
treatment options:
lung surgery
Thoracic surgeons are now able to use
advances in keyhole (thoracoscopic)
surgery techniques, as well as
more traditional ‘open’ surgery
procedures to remove lung metastases
successfully. They are also becoming
increasingly skilled in using specialist
new equipment that can improve the
safety and precision of the surgery,
minimise bleeding and post-operative
complications, and speed up recovery
time for patients.
Surgery may be an option for you, if
the size, position and grouping of the
tumours are in a part of the lung that
is easily accessible, and where the
surgeon can reach them safely without
damaging any major blood vessels or
the main airways into the lung.
For example, it may be possible to
take a small section of lung tissue –
called a wedge - from the affected
lung to remove one or two isolated
metastases without losing too much
of the function of the remaining lung.
If your metastases have affected a
larger area of the lower parts of the
lung, it may be that your surgeon
recommends removing a larger part of
the lung – this is known as a partial
treatment options:
lung surgery
When metastases affect both lungs
What to expect after surgery
If you have metastases in both lungs,
it may also be possible to treat them,
one lung at a time. If necessary, a
combination of treatments may be
used to ensure that the disease is
treated as effectively as possible. You
may be given the choice to explore
chemotherapy options – with or
without targeted (biological) therapies
(see page 24) or you may be offered
a combination of chemotherapy
and specialist radiotherapy or heat
treatments (see page 27). The aim of
these treatments is to reduce the size
and/or number of active tumours in the
lungs, prior to surgery, to make them
easier to remove.
After surgery, you will have one or
more drains in your chest to drain
away any blood or fluid collecting
around the lung and to help the lung
to re-inflate again after the surgery.
You may have a cough or some
shortness of breath initially after your
operation, but this should settle as your
wounds heal. It is likely that you will
have some pain initially, but keyhole
surgery techniques help to reduce the
severity of post-operative discomfort
and pain, which can be managed
effectively with a combination of
painkillers, regular deep breathing
and gentle exercise.
If you are having keyhole surgery to
remove the metastases in your lung,
you are likely to be in hospital for two
to four days. Open surgery tends to be
a bigger operation and you are likely
to be in hospital for up to seven days,
with at least another few weeks at
home to recover. You will be advised
to avoid any strenuous exercise or
heavy lifting for at least six weeks.
patient story
“This is one of my favourite photos. Taken two years after my initial
diagnosis, I was literally on top of the world: cycling up Mont Ventoux in
France for the first time. Previously I had had five weeks of chemotherapy
and radiation (to downsize my ‘inoperable’ tumour), successful surgery,
six months of chemotherapy and finally an ileostomy reversal. All seemed
well. The original mets on my liver had been reduced to scar tissue by
the chemo. Feeling fit and active I was optimistic that my oncologist’s
predictions about recurrence were wrong. I was wrong. Only a few weeks
after this photo was taken my routine scan showed a huge secondary
on my bowel and small metastases on both of my lungs. I dropped from
the top of the world to the depths of despair. No-one gives you very
good odds when you have mets on both lungs. My oncologist advised
that early retirement on health grounds would be a good way forward. A
palliative care pathway was my prognosis now.
patient story
Giving up work was the hardest part of this for me - I loved my teaching
job and would not have chosen to quit under any other circumstances. I
also had the prospect of more surgery on my bowel and chemotherapy to
slow the lung mets.
The bowel surgery was successful and the chemotherapy stalled the lung
mets. What was left could have been just scar tissue. This led to 18
months in remission during which I stuck strictly to an anti-cancer lifestyle and started to think I was ‘cured’. Wrong again.
Last winter’s routine check showed the left-side lung met was growing.
My oncologist told me this was ‘good news’. This gave me an insight into
an oncologist’s continuum of news for patients, where lung mets growing
can be called GOOD. What he meant was: only small and operable!
In January 2012 I had laparoscopic lung surgery using a state of the
art stapler! My current status is that the lesion on the other lung is not
growing and my surgeon says it is sited where he will be able to operate
if it grows again. I guess that is more good news, then!
I now try to avoid being emotional, one way or another, about
my prognosis. After nearly six years which started with the word
‘inoperable’... drifted through remission... grew into incurable...
I know that terminal was always on the cards. BUT there can be long
stretches of a great life in between. Look out for me at the top of Mont
Ventoux this August.”
Suze, 54
treatment options
and clinical trials
Treatment options
Clinical trials
Your oncologist will recommend a
treatment plan that is most likely to
provide a balance between having
the greatest benefits and the fewest
risks or side-effects. This first-line
treatment is usually based on what
worked best in clinical trials for
patients with the same type and
stage of cancer. You will be closely
monitored during your treatment. If
your first-line treatment does not
work, stops working, or causes
serious side-effects, your oncologist
may recommend a second-line
treatment, which is a different
treatment that it is hoped will be
effective. In some cases, you may
be a candidate for third-line therapy;
this will depend on your fitness
and what treatment has been
given previously.
At any point during your treatment,
you may consider asking your
oncologist whether a clinical trial is
an option. A clinical trial is a research
study that tests a new treatment
to prove it is safe, effective, and
possibly better than the standard
treatment you may already have had.
Because many clinical trials require
that you have had few or no previous
treatments, it is best to ask about
clinical trials early in the treatment
pathway. Your healthcare team can
help you review all clinical trial
options that are open to you.
For further details please see our
‘Clinical Trials’ factsheet. We list
ways that you can find out about
clinical trials on page 33 of this
treatment options:
Sometimes your multi-disciplinary
team will decide that surgery is
unlikely to be an option for you,
or that it could be an option at a
later date but other treatment is
needed first.
targeted and novel (new) therapies
are increasingly becoming successful
ways of treating a greater number of
patients with bowel cancer metastases
in the liver and elsewhere. The purpose
of these types of treatments (which
we describe later in the booklet) is to
shrink the tumours down and kill the
cancer cells, sometimes bringing them
to a point where they can be removed
with surgery, or safely targeted with
other kinds of treatment.
The standard chemotherapy drugs
for metastases are the same as the
ones used to treat cancer in the bowel
(colon or rectum). They can be given
on their own, in different combinations
at the same time, or given one after
the other, depending on your own
particular circumstances.
You may recognise some of the names
of the individual drugs: oxaliplatin,
irinotecan, 5FU and capecitabine.
These are some of combinations
currently being used:
• FOLFOX – 5FU and leucovorin with
• FOLFIRI – 5FU and leucovorin with
• FOLFOXIRI – 5FU and leucovorin
with both oxaliplatin and irinotecan
• CAPOX or XELOX – capecitabine
with oxaliplatin
• CAPIRI or XELIRI – capecitabine
with irinotecan
Please refer to our ‘Bowel Cancer
Treatment – Your Pathway’ booklet for
more information about these drugs.
Raltitrexed may be prescribed instead
for people who cannot tolerate 5FU
or who have a previous history of
coronary heart disease.
Leucovorin (folinic acid) is not a
chemotherapy drug, but when used
in combination with 5FU it has been
shown to increase its effectiveness.
With the exception of the capecitabine
capsules, all these drugs are given as
an intravenous infusion (a drip into
a vein).
treatment options:
targeted therapies
Biological or targeted therapies are
treatments that act on processes in
cells. This is a relatively new field of
research and many of the therapies
are still experimental. They may:
•stop cancer cells from dividing and
•seek out cancer cells and kill them
•encourage the immune system to
attack cancer cells
alter the growth of blood vessels
into the tumour.
There is no simple way of grouping
these therapies. Some drugs are
grouped according to the effect
they have, for example, drugs that
block cancer cell growth. But other
groups include a particular type of
drug, such as monoclonal antibodies
(which target specific proteins on
cancer cells). So some drugs belong
to more than one group. For example,
a drug that works by blocking cancer
cell growth may also be a monoclonal
Cetuximab (Erbitux) is the only
targeted therapy currently approved
by NICE, the National Institute for
Health & Care Excellence (see page
33.) Cetuximab is used for people
with KRAS wild type tumours (see
page 5). It is usually given in the
irinotecan but is increasingly used in
earlier lines of treatment in England
where it is provided by a special
government cash pot called the
Cancer Drugs Fund.
Cetuximab is given as an intravenous
infusion. The first infusion involves
a larger dose of cetuximab that is
given slowly, over about two hours.
Afterwards you’ll stay in the clinic for
about an hour to make sure that you
don’t have a reaction to the infusion.
After the first infusion, the following
infusions are given once a week
and take about an hour. Cetuximab
may cause a skin rash or spots as a
side-effect of treatment. Your
oncology nurse can advise you about
good skin care, and can supply you
with a cream called Pliazon to help
with this.
treatment options:
targeted therapies
There are other targeted therapies
licensed to treat advanced bowel
cancer, but many of them are not
currently recommended by NICE for
use on the NHS as they are deemed
too expensive.
If you live in England, you may be able
access some of these drugs free of
charge, as the cost is funded through
the Cancer Drugs Fund.
However, if you are a patient in
Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland,
then the only way that you can
currently access these drugs is by
getting your oncologist to apply to your
local health board for an individual
funding request. Such requests are
only successful if your doctor can
demonstrate that you would benefit
from a particular treatment by meeting
a number of stringent ‘exceptionality’
criteria. Unfortunately only a small
number of these applications are
successful. This leaves many patients
with the option of paying for the
treatment themselves or applying to
join a clinical trial.
Beating Bowel Cancer and other
organisations are lobbying the Scottish
Parliament and the Welsh Assembly
to improve access to these particular
treatments. In October 2013 the
Scottish Government announced
that it was considering a new way
to fund cancer drugs called the Peer
Approved Clinical System. Please see
our website for developments.
These targeted therapies all work by
blocking the growth of new blood
vessels to tumours:
Aflibercept (Zaltrap) is used in a
second-line setting in combination
with a FOLFIRI regime for patients
previously treated with oxaliplatin.
monoclonal antibody used as a
first-line treatment for advanced bowel
Regorafenib (Stivarga) has recently
been granted an EU license. It may be
considered as a third-line treatment
for patients who have previously
received oxaliplatin, irinotecan, 5FU
or capecitabine, bevacizumab and
patient story
“Bowel cancer – I had never heard
about it, let alone considered I could
get it at the age of 48! I had a few
bouts of diarrhoea which I put down
to food intolerance, but after six
weeks I visited my GP. He thought
it was nothing to worry about, but
told me to come back if necessary.
After three visits I had to insist that
I wanted a proper check-up with a
consultant and this resulted in
a colonoscopy.
I had bowel cancer. An operation
revealed an advanced Dukes C
[Stage 3] tumour. Needless to
say I and my poor family were
devastated. I put on a brave face,
but knew the statistics for survival
were not particularly good and
secretly thought I was going to
Six months of 5FU chemotherapy saw me through to a full body MRI
scan, by which time I was super positive and really thought I would be
told that all was well, but … really bad news … metastases were found
in my liver. I had surgery to remove half my liver, which left me feeling
very weak, and in fact it took me three months to feel really well again. I
had regular scans to check that no more lesions had appeared. I did have
intermittent cramps in my bowel for a few years after the surgery, but no
cause was found and these eventually went away.
13 years later I am very well and have just celebrated my daughter’s
wedding (which was one of the things I thought I would miss!). I just want
to say stay positive, don’t let it get you. I had superb treatment from my
consultants, but I can’t be the only one to be lucky too.”
Hazel, 61
treatment options:
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for
liver or lung metastases
Some patients experience side-effects
after treatment, which can include:
You may be prescribed RFA for the
following conditions:
•discomfort / pain where you’ve been
treated (for up to two weeks)
feeling generally unwell for a
few days, perhaps with a raised
•infection, bleeding or organ damage
(this is rare).
•if you have more than one tumour in
your liver
•if the position of a tumour makes it
difficult to operate (for example near
a major blood vessel)
if you have other conditions that
make surgery difficult.
Most people go into hospital the
night before the treatment, and go
home the day after. You will be given
painkillers to take home and you will
usually have another CT scan six to
eight weeks later to see how effective
it was.
Microwave ablation
Research shows that RFA works best
on tumours less than 3cm across, but it
can be used on larger tumours. You can
have RFA treatment more than once.
The treatment is given under general
anaesthetic. The surgeon/radiologist
uses specialist scanning equipment
(ultrasound / CT) to guide a probe
(1-2mm across) into the tumour,
where high frequency electrical
currents are passed. This creates heat
that destroys the cancer cells. The
heat can be varied depending on the
size of the tumour, and the time taken
to treat each tumour is usually about
10-15 minutes.
This is a newer ablative technique
that uses microwave radiation to
heat and destroy cancerous tissue.
The indications for its use are similar
to radiofrequency ablation. The
advantages are that the technique is
quicker than RFA: it only takes three
minutes on average to treat a small
tumour. This technique therefore
allows multiple lesions (tumours) to
be treated in the same session. This
technology is currently only available
at a small number of centres in the
treatment options:
Selective internal radiation therapy
(SIRT) for liver metastases
This is a novel treatment which
involves millions of very tiny ‘beads’
(microspheres) being injected into the
major blood vessel that supplies the
liver with oxygen and nutrients. Each
bead is small enough to reach the
tiny blood vessels in and around the
active tumours, where they give out
concentrated doses of direct radiation
specifically to these tumour cells. The
treatment is then active within the
liver for about two weeks of effective,
continuous treatment.
Selective internal radiation therapy is
done in two stages. The first step is to
prepare the liver for the treatment and
involves having a fine tube (catheter)
inserted into a blood vessel in your
groin and passed up to the blood
vessel which carries blood to the liver.
SIRT is suitable for patients where
either the liver is the only site of
disease or the major site of disease.
There are a number of other factors
that have to be considered before it
can be offered as a treatment option.
Most importantly, your liver needs
to be otherwise in good condition
and working properly. This is usually
determined by simple blood tests.
• The tiny beads are infused into a
major blood vessel in your groin and
travel to the liver
treatment options:
You will also receive a small amount
of radioactive dye to check the blood
flow between your liver and lungs. The
vessels in your liver will be blocked
to stop the microspheres travelling
elsewhere in your body.
The second step involves receiving the
microspheres, also done via the tube
in your groin area - usually one to two
weeks later. This treatment involves
staying in hospital for one to four days.
SIRT will be made available in
England through the Commissioning
through Evaluation initiative (CtE) for
patients who are no longer responsive
to chemotherapy or biological therapy.
They may be offered SIRT at NHS
specialist centres, or encouraged
to enrol in a SIRT clinical trial if
© Sirtex
Side-effects of treatment include
abdominal pain and/or nausea which
will normally ease after a short time
with or without medication. You
may also develop a mild fever for up
to a week, and feel tired for several
weeks after having the infusion. You
may need to take painkillers or other
medicines to prevent or reduce these
SIRT is not used routinely in the initial
treatment of advanced bowel cancer:
chemotherapy and biological therapy
are the current treatments of choice.
However, eligible patients should be
offered enrolment in a UK clinical trial
called FOXFIRE, where microspheres
are administered at the same time as
first-line chemotherapy and biological
• Tiny beads block the blood vessels supplying the
novel treatment options
There are some new treatments
becoming more widely available on the
NHS as well as in private healthcare
clinics. So far, there is limited evidence
of their long-term benefits to patients;
however, it might be useful to discuss
them with your medical team.
Stereotactic radiotherapy (cyberknife
or gammaknife) for liver, lung or brain
This treatment works by delivering
concentrated, high doses of radiation
directly into the metastasis using
many individual beams of low dose
radiation. These are aimed very
precisely, to deliver the treatment from
all sides at the same time.
Unlike conventional radiotherapy, this
treatment can be delivered in just a
few, longer treatment sessions, or even
in one single treatment - sometimes
called radiosurgery. This technique
spares the surrounding healthy tissue,
reducing the risk of long-term damage
or complications. This may make it a
safe alternative for patients who would
not otherwise be well enough to have
surgery to remove tumours, and for
those who might not respond to other,
conventional treatment options.
•Patient being treated by cyberknife at
the London Clinic
Lung laser
The lung laser uses beams of light to
deliver precise, powerful treatments to
very small areas of tumour. It allows
surgeons to perform complicated
surgery on the delicate lung tissue
more efficiently and effectively. This
treatment benefits patients by
Using the ultra-high temperatures
to destroy even deep-seated and
multiple metastases. The laser
effectively seals the edges of the
wound so that the surgeon does not
have to remove large sections of the
lung (lobectomy). This protects the
lung function, and can reduce the
risk of breathlessness after surgery.
Increasing the speed at which
multiple metastases can be removed,
reducing the time that patients spend
under general anaesthetic.
Destroying the cancer cells at
the same time as sealing the
surrounding lung tissue, reducing
the risk of internal bleeding or air
leak from the lung which can lead
to post-operative complications.
treatment options:
Abdominal (peritoneal) metastases can
be more difficult to treat because of the
way in which the cancer cells become
attached to the outside of other organs
and tissues in the abdomen.
The treatment options available will
depend on many factors, such as
which structures are involved and
what other complicating factors might
be present as a result of previous
surgery (if this is recurrent disease).
When bowel cancer spreads to the
lining surfaces of the abdominal
(peritoneal) cavity, it can be more
difficult to treat successfully with
traditional chemotherapies. However,
if there is no other evidence of spread
outside the abdomen, then a novel
treatment, called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), may
become an option for some patients.
If there are just one or two isolated
metastases in an easily accessible
position, your oncology team is
likely to ask a general surgeon with
specialist experience and training to
review your case and give an opinion
on whether an operation to remove
them might be successful. They may
also ask other specialists to become
involved if the metastases are affecting
the bladder or kidneys for example, or
the reproductive system in women
(ovaries or uterus).
The treatment is usually given during
surgery when the surgeon will first
remove all the visible cancer in the
abdomen. While you are still under
anaesthetic, this heated (hyperthermic)
chemotherapy fluid is introduced
directly into your abdomen (intraperitoneal), bathing all the organs and
surfaces in the fluid for a maximum
of two hours. The HIPEC procedure
is designed to attempt to kill any
remaining cancer cells that may be left
behind, but that cannot be seen.
questions to ask
You may wish to consider asking your specialist team some of these questions:
•Where are the metastases in my body, and can you draw me a picture to help
me understand what this looks like?
If the metastases are only in my liver (liver limited), has my case been
discussed by the specialist liver multi-disciplinary team?
•Has my KRAS status been checked?
•If I have the wild type KRAS gene, when would you recommend that cetuximab
be used in my treatment pathway?
•Is the treatment I am being offered at this hospital the only option available to
me as an NHS patient? If not, what else may be available at other hospitals?
•Where might I go to get a second opinion, or to access treatment options not
available at this hospital?
•Would I be eligible for a clinical trial?
•If I were a private patient, would I have other treatment options not available
to me under current NHS funding arrangements?
•If I live in Scotland, Wales or N. Ireland, how can I access targeted therapies?
•When will the treatment start?
•How will I be followed up, and how often?
•How will I know if the treatment has worked?
What are the common side-effects of the treatment I am being offered,
including any that may become a long-term problem?
•Who will be my keyworker for this part of my treatment, and how will I be able
to keep in touch with him/her?
•Who do I contact if I have any problems as a result of my treatment, and how
do I do that?
•What happens if I decide not to have treatment?
further support
and useful contacts
For more information about
radiofrequency ablation (RFA):
The Cancer Thermal Ablation Fund
For more information about
treatments that use heat (ablation)
and a useful animation of how
treatment is delivered:
For more information about selective
internal radiotherapy (SIRT):
Specialist patient information
and DVD available from
Beating Bowel Cancer
If you would like to find out
more about participating in a
clinical trial:
Beating Bowel Cancer
Clinical Trials Finder
(going live in Jan 2014)
National Cancer Research
Cancer Research UK
For more information about
cetuximab (Erbitux), and coping
with the common side-effects
of treatment: Patient information
available from
Beating Bowel Cancer
Beating Bowel Cancer publications
available by post or to download
from our website:
•Bowel Cancer Treatment
- Your Pathway
•Beyond Bowel Cancer
- Living Well
•Living with Bowel Cancer
- Eating Well
•Clinical Trials factsheet
•Palliative Care factsheet
•Peripheral Neuropathy factsheet
The latest National Institute for
Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
guidance on the management of
colorectal cancer can be read at
NICE guidance on cetuximab
for the first-line treatment of
metastatic colorectal cancer can
be read at
our work
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second
biggest cancer killer. More than
110 people are diagnosed with
the disease every day – that’s
more than 41,000 per year. If
detected early, over 90% of
bowel cancer cases could be
successfully treated.
Beating Bowel Cancer’s mission is
to prevent unnecessary deaths by
raising awareness of symptoms and
promoting early diagnosis.
We provide advice and support to
people diagnosed with bowel cancer
through our nurse advisory service, our
patient to patient support network and
via a range of Information Standard
accredited booklets and factsheets.
Please join us and together we
can beat bowel cancer. A gift of just
£10 could help us provide direct
support to those trying to cope with
bowel cancer.
How your money is spent
Around 55,000 people visit our
website each month.
• In 12 months our nurse advisors had
4,350 contacts with patients, their
friends and families by telephone
and email.
250 patients, carers, nurses,
speakers, exhibitors and staff
attended our annual Patient Day.
More than 8,800 people have
attended Health in the Workplace
bowel cancer awareness talks.
We distributed over 143,500
booklets, leaflets and factsheets
about bowel cancer in a year.
Thanks to our 9,500 ‘likes’ on
Facebook and 10,700 followers
on Twitter we increased awareness
and helped more people affected by
bowel cancer.
We organise a free, annual
conference for colorectal clinical
nurse specialists. We campaign to
influence health policy at all levels to
ensure equity and equality for bowel
cancer patients throughout the UK.
(Figures collated October 2013)
• Beating Bowel Cancer’s
nurse advisors
Yes I want to help beat bowel cancer
Title (Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms)
Telephone no.
Date of Birth
If you are happy for us to contact you by email, please provide address
I would like to help save lives by donating £10
or £
Please make cheques/postal orders/CAF vouchers payable to Beating Bowel Cancer
or please debit my card
Master Card
CAF card
Card no.
Three digit security code
Valid from
Expiry date
Issue no.
Switch/Maestro only
Make your gift worth 25% more with Gift Aid.
Gift Aid declaration: “I am a UK taxpayer and I want Beating Bowel
Cancer to treat all donations I have made up to four years prior and
all donations I make from the date of this declaration as Gift Aid donations, until I notify
you otherwise.” To qualify for Gift Aid, what you pay in UK income tax and/or capital
gains tax must at least equal the amount we will claim in the tax year.
This donation is not eligible for Gift Aid.
I would like to help save lives by taking action. Please tell me more about:
Making a regular donation
Leaving a gift in my Will
Becoming a volunteer fundraiser
Campaigns to improve awareness and influence government policy
Registered Charity Nos. 1063614 (England and Wales) SC043340 (Scotland)
Beating Bowel Cancer is a leading registered UK charity for bowel cancer
patients, working to raise awareness of symptoms, promote early diagnosis
and encourage open access to treatment choice for those affected by bowel
cancer. The charity was founded in 1999, and through our work we aim to
help save lives from this common cancer.
We provide a wide range of support services for patients, and deliver
numerous awareness and education campaigns aimed at both the general
public and healthcare professionals.
We are very grateful to everyone who supports our important work. If you
would like to get involved, or to make a donation, please visit our website or
complete the attached form.
Chief Executive
Mark Flannagan
Board of Trustees
Chairman: Sir Christopher Pitchers
Hilary Barrett
Peter Beverley
John Collard
Paul Jackson
Paul Jansen
Adam Leach
Deborah Mechaneck
Nicholas Woolf
Lesley Woolnough
Baroness Benjamin OBE DL
Lord Crisp KCB
Professor the Lord Darzi KBE
Matt Dawson MBE
Dr Chris Steele MBE
Medical Board
Chairman: Professor Will Steward
Mr Tan Arulampalam
Mr Hassan Z. Malik
Dr Pawan Randev
Dr Andrew Renehan
Dr Mark Saunders
Ms Katharine Williams
If you have any questions or comments about this publication, or would like
information on the evidence used to produce it, please write to us or email
[email protected]
Beating Bowel Cancer
Harlequin House | 7 High Street | Teddington | Middlesex |TW11 8EE
Main Tel 08450 719 300 | Nurse Advisor 08450 719 301
[email protected]
Registered Charity Number 1063614 (England & Wales) SCO43340 (Scotland)
Version 2.0 Published Nov 2013 Scheduled review date Nov 2015