Oxaliplatin is effective in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (MCRC) patients; however, severe neurotoxicity develops frequently. To assess the efficacy of oral glutamine for preventing neuropathy induced by oxaliplatin, a pilot study was performed. A total of 86 patients with MCRC treated at Taipei Veterans General Hospital were enrolled. Oxaliplatin (85 mg/m2, days 1 and 15) plus weekly bolus 5-fluorouracil (5-FU; 500 mg/m2) and folinic acid (FA; 20 mg/m2) on days 1, 8, and 15 were given every 28 days as firstline treatment. Patients were randomized to receive (glutamine group; n = 42) or not receive (control group; n = 44) glutamine (15 g twice a day for seven consecutive days every 2 weeks starting on the day of oxaliplatin infusion). Efficacy of chemotherapy, neurological toxicity, and electrophysiological alterations were assessed. A lower percentage of grade 1-2 peripheral neuropathy was observed in the glutamine group (16.7% versus 38.6%) after two cycles of treatment, and a significantly lower incidence of grade 3-4 neuropathy was noted in the glutamine group after four cycles (4.8% versus 18.2%) and six cycles (11.9% versus 31.8%). By adding glutamine, interference with activities of daily living was lower (16.7% versus 40.9%), and need for oxaliplatin dose reduction was lower (7.1% versus 27.3%). There were no significant between-group differences in response to chemotherapy (52.4% versus 47.8%), electrophysiological abnormalities, grade 3-4 non-neurological toxicities (26.2% versus 22.8%), or survival. These data indicate that oral glutamine significantly reduces the incidence and severity of peripheral neuropathy of MCRC patients receiving oxaliplatin without affecting response to chemotherapy and survival.
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