Walking and Resistance Training Eases CIPN, Especially Among Older Patients

July 21, 2016
Lauren M. Green

Patients undergoing chemotherapy prescribed a formal exercise program experienced less chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), and the finding held true across all chemotherapy regimens tested.

Ian Kleckner, PhD

Patients undergoing chemotherapy prescribed a formal exercise program experienced less chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), and the finding held true across all chemotherapy regimens tested. The effect was strongest in older patients, according to findings from a nationwide randomized controlled trial reported at the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting.

CIPN is a highly prevalent and severe side effect of certain chemotherapy types, such as platinums, taxanes, and vinca alkaloids, affecting more than 50% of patients receiving these therapies. Nevertheless, “there are currently no established treatments for CIPN—despite 50 randomized clinical trials—testing the efficacy of drugs to prevent or treat it,” explained lead study author Ian Kleckner, PhD.

Kleckner, a research assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and colleagues performed a secondary analysis of a subset of 314 sedentary patients receiving taxane-, vinca alkaloid-, or platinum-based chemotherapy derived from a larger, phase III, national, randomized controlled trial (N = 619).

The majority of patients were women (92%), and 78% had breast cancer. They were randomized to chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus exercise. Patients randomized to the EXCAP arm (Exercise for Cancer Patients) which is a personalized, 6-week, home-based, moderate-intensity progressive program, were prescribed a daily walking regimen (eg, steps per day), supplied with pedometers, and also given a set of resistance bands to perform specific exercises.

Walking and resistance exercises were recommended for the control group. They did not receive any formalized support; however, control participants were given the exercise kit at the end of the study.

The investigators used patient self-report of tingling and numbness at baseline and after the intervention, rated on a 0-10 scale with 10 being the worst level of CIPN. In the EXCAP arm, CIPN was reduced compared with controls, with an effect size of 0.26 (P = .06), and the finding was independent of other variables, such as gender, BMI, and cancer stage. However, age was a moderating variable.

“We found that exercise was more effective for older patients,” said Kleckner. “Older patients in the control arm experienced a large increase in CIPN after 6 weeks of chemotherapy, whereas older patients in the experimental exercise arm had a very small, if any, increase in CIPN.”

Kleckner said that based on these findings, he and colleagues hope to expand their research. “What we’d like to do now is design a randomized clinical trial testing exercise against chemotherapy alone, where CIPN is the primary outcome. Only one trial to date has looked at this, and it was very small—60 patients.”

He hopes researchers can identify biomarkers in the brain circuitry or signals of the role inflammation may play to help better identify who is most at risk for CIPN.

Over the next few years, Kleckner would like to see this research continue to “scale up, so we can better learn about the effectiveness of exercise, understand what dose/intensity of exercise is important, what type of exercise, and who responds best to exercise … we’re hoping for an exercise prescription, instead of the generic ‘please exercise.’”

Kleckner I, Kamen CS, Peppone LJ, et al. A URCC NCORP nationwide randomized controlled trial investigating the effect of exercise on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in 314 cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2016; 34 (suppl; abstr 10000).