Yoga provides physical and mental benefits for both lung cancer patients and their caregivers, according to results of a randomized study presented at the Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.

“Overall, we are encouraged by the findings,” said lead study author, Kathrin Milbury, PhD , of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

“We demonstrated that patients undergoing treatment for lung cancer are not too sick to participate in a behavioral supportive care intervention,” Dr. Milbury said in a press conference. “Both patients and caregivers reported to have enjoyed the experience, and it gave them a time away from cancer, and [they] learned something new together.”

This study provides preliminary evidence that a yoga program can provide a “buffer” and improve physical function for patients, as well as self-reported improved quality of life for both patients and their caregivers, she added.

All patients in the study had non–small cell lung cancer and were undergoing thoracic radiation therapy, which can cause respiratory toxicities that negatively affect quality of life and physical activity, according to Dr. Milbury and her coinvestigators.

A total of 32 patient-caregiver dyads were randomized to participate in 15 yoga sessions or to be in a “wait-list” control group, and 26 dyads completed all assessments.

Patients who practiced yoga had significantly better scores on a 6-minute walking test (478 vs. 402 for wait-list enrollees; P less than .05), plus better stamina and mental health. Caregivers had improved fatigue and better stamina at work.

Almost all patients (96%) rated the program as “very useful,” investigators reported at the symposium, which was cosponsored by AAHPM, ASCO, ASTRO, and MASCC.

This study provides additional evidence that yoga and other nonpharmacologic supportive therapies “can be integrated into not only the care of cancer patients, but also the family caregivers who support them,” according to Andrew S. Epstein, MD , of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

Next, the researchers plan to conduct a larger, randomized, controlled trial with a more stringent comparison group, according to Dr. Milbury.