Web-Based Intervention Helps Childhood Cancer Survivors Stay Active
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An interactive online program that provides rewards for exercising can motivate adolescent cancer survivors to stay physically active, hint results of a pilot study.
Increasing physical activity also had “positive effects on fitness, cognition and quality of life in adolescent survivors of pediatric cancer,” said lead author Dr. Carrie R. Howell, clinical research scientist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
She presented the study findings at a press briefing February 12 ahead of presentation February 16 at the 2018 Cancer Survivorship Symposium in Orlando, Florida, co-sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American College of Physicians (ACP).
The researchers randomly assigned 97 adolescents (ages 11 to 15) who had completed their cancer treatment and were physically active less than 60 minutes a day to a web-based physical activity intervention or to a control group.
Both groups received an educational handout with information about the importance of being physically active and examples of activities, plus a wearable activity monitor. The intervention group also had access to an interactive website. Each week, they would connect their monitor to a computer and log their activity through the website. When they achieved certain activity goals, they received rewards, such as T-shirts and gift cards, by mail.
Seventy-eight (80%) participants completed the 24-week program: 53 in the intervention group and 25 in the control group. After 24 weeks, weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity increased by an average of about 5 minutes in the intervention group and decreased by an average of about 24 minutes in the control group, Dr. Howell reported.
She noted that the intervention group increased their activity from baseline to 12 weeks, and then reduced their activity slightly from 12 weeks to 24 weeks, but still maintained an increase over their baseline amount of activity. The control group steadily reduced their physical activity across the 24 weeks.
The intervention group also saw modest improvements in measures of fitness from baseline to 24 weeks, including hand-grip strength and the number of push-ups and sit-ups completed in 30 seconds. They also had improvements in verbal fluency and general cognition and health-related quality of life. The control group did not improve on any of those measures.
ASCO expert and briefing moderator Dr. Timothy Gilligan said this trial provides “more evidence of the many different types of benefits (that) are derived from increasing physical activity and also a reminder that we need to be creative as to how we motivate or engage people - and this is a new tool to do that.”
Given the positive results in this pilot study, Dr. Howell and her colleagues are testing the intervention in a larger clinical trial of survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The intervention will last one year, with follow-up at 18 months. The trial, currently recruiting patients, is registered at clinicaltrials.gov (http://bit.ly/2o1pGPy).
The newly published study was supported by the National Cancer Institute and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. Devices, website access, and study support were provided by HopeLab.
Cancer Survivorship Symposium 2018.