Effects of nutrition and physical exercise intervention in palliative cancer patients: A randomized controlled trial.

Cancer cachexia is multifactorial and should be targeted using a multimodal form of intervention. The purpose of the present trial was to test the effects of a combined nutrition and physical exercise program on cancer patients with metastatic or locally advanced tumors of the gastrointestinal and lung tracts.

Patients were randomized into two groups: One group received a minimum of three standardized individual nutritional counselling sessions and participated in a 60-min exercise program twice a week. The second group received their usual care. The intervention spanned a period of three months. Quality of life (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire version 3.0), physical performance (hand-grip strength, 6-min walk test, timed sit-to-stand test and 1 repetition maximum leg press), nutritional status (body weight, bioelectrical impedance analysis), dietary intake (three-day dietary record) and clinical data (unexpected hospital days, performance status) were tested at baseline and after three and six months.

In total, 18 women and 40 men (mean age 63, range 32-81) with metastatic or locally advanced tumors of the gastrointestinal (n = 38) and lung (n = 20) tracts were included. Median adherence to the supervised exercise program was 75%. The median number of individual nutritional counselling sessions was 3.0 (range 0-7 sessions). Post intervention, no difference in global health status/quality of life (overall QoL) was observed. Intervention was superior to UC for the patient-rated symptom scale regarding nausea and vomiting (p = 0.023) and protein intake (p = 0.01). No statistical differences were observed for energy intake, nutritional status and physical performance.

The results show good adherence to a combined nutrition and exercise program. The multimodal intervention did not improve overall QoL, but contributed to an adequate protein intake and to the general well-being of the patient by reducing nausea and vomiting.