Currently, the BC Cancer Agency’s therapeutic oncology program conducts research to address lifestyle related issues including nutrition, physical activity and symptom management for people living with cancer. This research is related to rehabilitation, patient safety and risk management from diagnosis through to survivorship and end-of-life. 

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, ‘over one third of the most common cancers can be prevented through diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular physical activity’.  Research and clinical practice suggest that a patient’s lifestyle impacts their cancer care trajectories from primary prevention through to end-of-life. The therapeutic oncology program is perfectly aligned to the BC Cancer Agency’s goal of reducing cancer across British Columbia.

The Nutrition and Exercise During Treatment (NExT) study is a perfect example of the type of clinically relevant research supported by the therapeutic oncology program.  The main goal of this study was to translate research findings into practice.  There have been many well controlled clinical trials examining the role of exercise and healthy eating during treatment and how this can reduce many of common side effects of cancer treatment and help people cope better with treatment.  But clinical trials often have a long list of critiera that a patient must meet before being entered in the trial, which can mean that the program being tested may not have the same results when it is offered as part of clinical care and open to all patients. 

So the NExT study set out to test just that - if an exercise and healthy eating program was offered as part a standard part of chemotherapy treatment for women with early stage breast cancer, how many women would be referred by their oncologists? How many women would want to try out the program and what impact would it have on side effects of treatment?

This project was led by a team made up of a registered dieitician from the BC Cancer Agency, Cheri Van Patten, a physiotherapist from UBC, Kristin Campbell, an oncologist from the Agency, Karen Gelmon, and a sports medicine physician from UBC, Donald McKenzie.  

My co-blogger this month, Kristin Campbell, will discuss the findings of the NExT study and its wider impact on cancer research and care here in British Columbia in next week’s blog.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Ryna Levy-Milne 

Provincial Director, Therapeutic Oncology Services, BC Cancer Agency