The Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug Monday for people whose colorectal cancer has returned despite all available treatments.
Irinotecan, to be sold by Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. under the brand name Camptosar, becomes the first alternative for these patients in 40 years.
About 134,500 Americans are diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year. When the tumors are caught early, 90 percent of patients will survive after surgery and occasionally radiation therapy.
When colorectal cancer recurs or spreads, standard therapy is fluorouracil. But if that treatment fails, patients have had little hope.
Studies found Camptosar reduced the tumor size of 13 percent of 304 such patients, an effect that lasted an average of six months.