Exercise during chemotherapy may yield long-term physical benefits


ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Physical exercise during adjuvant chemotherapy may lead to improved physical activity and decreased fatigue years after the treatment is completed, results of a recent analysis suggest.

Four years after participating in an exercise program that took place during cancer treatment, patients reported more moderate-to-vigorous activity and less fatigue, compared with patients who did not participate in the program, according to long-term follow-up results presented at the Cancer Survivorship Symposium .

“We think that offering exercise during cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, is recommended and has beneficial short- and long-term effects on health,” said Anne M. May, PhD, of University Medical Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Speaking in a press conference at the symposium, Dr. May described results of the analysis, which included 128 patients who had previously participated in PACT, a 237-patient randomized controlled trial evaluating a supervised exercise program versus usual care in patients undergoing adjuvant treatment for breast or colon cancer.

The 18-week exercise program included moderate- to high-intensity aerobic and strength training under physical therapist supervision for 60 minutes twice weekly, plus home-based physical activity for 30 minutes three times weekly.

At 4 years’ follow-up, patients in the exercise group reported on average 90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week, compared to an average of 70 minutes per week in the usual care group (P less than .05), Dr. May reported at the symposium, which was sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

There was also a trend toward decreased fatigue reported in the exercise vs. usual care group, though the finding did not reach statistical significance, she said.

It is “encouraging” to see that this exercise program had a long-term impact on patients’ physical activity levels, said ASCO expert Timothy Gilligan, MD, MSc.

“I think the public sometimes gets jaded because the nutritional recommendations seem to change every year, but if you look at the research on exercise in health … it’s interesting how consistent the data is that exercise really is good for us – if we can only get people to do it,” said Dr. Gilligan, who moderated the press conference.

Dr. May said she had no disclosures to report for the study, which was supported by grants from the Dutch Cancer Society, the Dutch Pink Ribbon Foundation, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research.


SOURCE: May AM et al. Cancer Survivorship Symposium, Abstract 99.