Treatments for unresectable small intestine adenocarcinoma

The following are treatment options for unresectable small intestine adenocarcinoma. This means that the cancer can’t be completely removed with surgery. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.


You may be offered surgery to relieve pain and other symptoms caused by the tumour. This is called palliative surgery.

The surgeon may do a surgical bypass to allow digested food and fluid to go around, or bypass, a tumour in the small intestine. In some cases, the surgeon may remove part of the tumour. Another way the surgeon can create a bypass is by putting a small tube (called a stent) through the tumour.

Surgery may also be done to open a blockage in the intestine (called a bowel obstruction) or repair a hole in the intestine (called a bowel perforation).


Researchers are still trying to find out which chemotherapy drugs are best for small intestine adenocarcinoma. You may be offered chemotherapy to relieve pain or control other symptoms. This is called palliative chemotherapy.

The most common combinations of chemotherapy drugs used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma are:

  • FOLFOX – leucovorin (folinic acid), 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU) and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)
  • CAPOX – capecitabine (Xeloda) and oxaliplatin
  • 5-fluorouracil and cisplatin (Platinol AQ)

If small intestine adenocarcinoma does not respond to the above drugs, you may be offered the following drugs:

  • FOLFIRI – leucovorin, 5-fluorouracil and irinotecan (Camptosar)

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy can damage the intestine, so it is rarely used to treat small intestine adenocarcinoma. External beam radiation therapy may be used to:

  • relieve symptoms of a blocked intestine (called a bowel obstruction)
  • stop bleeding from a small intestine tumour
  • treat pain where the small intestine cancer has spread, or metastasized, such as the bones

Clinical trials

Very few clinical trials in Canada are open to people with small intestine adenocarcinoma because this type of cancer is so rare. Clinical trials look at new and better ways to prevent, find and treat cancer.

Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references