Article Highlight: Systematic Review

Article Highlight

Exercise-based interventions for cancer cachexia: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials 

We are delighted to highlight the open access availability of a new systematic review about exercise-based interventions for cancer-related cachexia. Supervised by INSPIRE’s Scientific Lead, Professor Matthew Maddocks, this systematic review synthesises evidence from randomised and non-randomised controlled studies looking at the delivery, acceptability, safety and outcomes of exercise interventions for adults with cancer cachexia. Cachexia is a complex metabolic syndrome which affects up to 80% of patients with advanced cancer and reduces quality of life, cancer treatment response and survival. 

Crucially, this review suggests there is moderate evidence supporting the use of exercise interventions for individuals with cancer-related cachexia; exercise interventions were generally considered safe for individuals with cachexia and may contribute to positive outcomes for body stature, composition, and muscle strength. Moreover, these exercise interventions were generally held as acceptable among patients included in the synthesis. 

It is essential to consider cachexia in the design and implementation of interventions related to cancer, as it affects an upper estimate of 80% of individuals with advanced cancer. These results are compelling for all professionals interested in incorporating exercise into the care of patients with cancer. This review provides promising results for including exercise in cancer care and for the potential of INSPIRE to use exercise-based interventions to address functional needs and symptom burden. 

Lead author, Canaan Cheung, underscores the importance of integrating exercise interventions into routine cancer care protocols to address cachexia’s multifaceted impact on patients. However, while exercise interventions offer promise in alleviating the burden of cancer-related cachexia, further exploration is needed to identify the optimal timing and duration of exercise programmes, tailored to individual patient needs. 

Research related to cancer cachexia is being undertaken as part of INSPIRE through the work of PhD student Megan Bowers in King’s College London. Read our previous entry on Megan’s work here:  February 2023 INSPIRE Researcher