N&N to lead national trial into exercise benefits for cancer patients

L-R: The N&N's clinical trials team with patient Nigel Slaymaker (third from left). The team is lead

L-R: The N&N's clinical trials team with patient Nigel Slaymaker (third from left). The team is leading a study into the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. Picture submitted by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. - Credit: Archant

A national research trial has been launched in Norfolk to see if patients can benefit from an exercise programme before and after cancer surgery.

The colorectal cancer unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is leading the project, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, and working in partnership with the universities of East Anglia and Northumbria.

Each year around 250 patients are treated with surgery at the hospital, and while an operation offers the best chance of cure - it can result in complications or lower quality of life.

The study will assess patients' fitness by using a cardiopulmonary exercise test in the respiratory department.

Patients will then be randomly allocated to get either supervised exercise at the hospital, a home-based exercise programme, or the current standard care.


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The exercise will be performed in the three to four weeks leading up to surgery, and start again six weeks after surgery.

The trial will recruit more than 1,400 patients from at least 13 hospitals across the country. It will finish in 2020.

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Researchers hope that they will be able to produce clear evidence of the benefits of exercise before and after surgery, and determine if this is a cost-effective way to reduce complications and improve patients' quality of life.

Richard Wharton, a consultant surgeon at the hospital, said: 'The colorectal unit is delighted to be leading this important area of research.

'A number of small studies have shown that patients who start to undertake regular exercise in the short period of time between their diagnosis of cancer and their operation can increase their fitness and this may result in improved recovery.

'After an operation for cancer it is also thought that patients who continue to exercise may recover better in the long term.'

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