Thursday, 28 July 2016

Just Saying That Exercise Helps Neuropathy Doesn't Necessarily Make It So

Today's post from (see link below) again promotes exercise as a way of reducing neuropathy symptoms but in this case, the evidence seems a little thin. By testing a group of cancer patients with neuropathy as a side effect, they found that walking and other general exercise prevented the symptoms from worsening, especially in older patients. I would suggest that moderate exercise will help older patients feel generally better anyway than sitting or lying for long periods of time but they'll need to provide much more specific evidence to prove that neuropathic symptoms can be reduced by a graduated walking course. In this case, I would suggest that with this sort of patient, there are far too many variables to come to the conclusion that exercise is more effective in reducing or limiting nerve damage symptoms in older people. That said, there is a general consensus among doctors that regular exercise will improve neuropathy, or at least stop it getting worse but in this case, I feel too much is being assumed from too little data.

Walking and Resistance Training Eases CIPN, Especially Among Older Patients
LAUREN M. GREEN @OncNurseEditor Wednesday, July 20, 2016

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).

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