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Precision Physical Activity Prescriptions May Improve Survival in Patients With Stage III Colon Cancer


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Physical activity may be associated with improved outcomes for patients undergoing postoperative treatment for stage III colon cancer, according to findings from a new study out of Pennington Biomedical Research Center published by Brown et al in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The study assessed 1,696 patients who had undergone surgery and chemotherapy to treat stage III colon cancer, and examined how different types and intensities of physical activity might impact the length of time patients remained alive and disease-free. Specifically, researchers assessed the overall amount of physical activity the patients engaged in, as well as the type of activity. The researchers compared light and moderate physical activity, vigorous aerobic activity, brisk walking, and muscle-strengthening exercise.

Prior to this study, it was unknown how different types and intensity of physical activity impacted disease recurrence and death in colon cancer survivors. Current clinical guidelines encourage patients to simply avoid inactivity.

Key Findings

“What we found is that larger volumes of recreational physical activity, longer durations of light- to moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or any vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity were associated with the highest chances of remaining alive and cancer-free. Patients should first identify a physical activity that they enjoy and then refer to the study results to determine how much of that activity is needed to achieve such a health benefit. If you enjoy the activity, you are more likely to stick with it over time,” said Pennington Biomedical Cancer Metabolism Program Director Justin Brown, PhD, who led the study.

The study took place within an existing National Cancer Institute (NCI) trial that compared certain pharmaceutical treatments in patients who had undergone surgery to treat their colon cancer. The patients were followed for nearly 6 years.

“We were fortunate to be able to conduct this study as an offshoot of the NCI study. By conducting this study within the NCI trial, we eliminated many of the common limitations of prior studies to allow us to zero in on what will benefit the patient and what might not,” Dr. Brown said.

Study Implications

“We know that healthy lifelong habits can make a difference in cancer survivors’ overall wellness. This cutting-edge research project provides patients with very specific recommendations on how they can take back some level of control against a disease that often feels overwhelming,” said Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan, MSc, PhD, FACSM.

The study authors concluded, “Among patients with stage III colon cancer enrolled in a trial of postoperative treatment, larger volumes of recreational physical activity, longer durations of light- to moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or any vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity were associated with the greatest improvements in disease-free survival.”

Disclosure: This work was supported by grants from the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the NCI. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit ascopubs.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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