Vall d’Hebron and the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili lead a clinical trial to evaluate the benefits of physical exercise in elderly people with cancer

The two centres call on people with a diagnosis of cancer over 65-years-old and living in Barcelona to participate in the trial.

01/03/2023

The Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili (PSPV) and the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) have launched a clinical trial to evaluate the possible benefits of practising physical exercise adapted to elderly cancer patients. It is the first multicentre study on physical activity and cancer in older people in Catalonia, in which the Navarra-Nafarroako Unibersitate Ospitalea (NUO) and the Andorran Health Care Service (SAAS) are also involved, with the support of the Cancer Association. The two centres call for about 100 people with a diagnosis of cancer that are aged 65 or older and live the province of Barcelona to enrol in the trial, which has already begun to study the first patients.

The clinical trial is part of the PROFIT project (Tailoring the care for fragile oncological patients through individualised evaluation and intervention), funded by the Cancer Association and developed by the PSPV and VHIR REFiT BCN research group, along with the NUO and the SAAS, to measure the degree of fragility of elderly people with cancer and improve their health and general quality of life.
The main goal of the PROFIT project is to determine if a personalised programme of physical exercise with directed sessions, accompanied by health education guidelines and a healthy diet, improves the functional capacity of older people suffering from cancer and their overall physical status.

Although the prevalence of cancer, along with other diseases, increases considerably with age, there are virtually no studies on physical activity and cancer evaluating older people. For Dr Marco Inzitari, director of the PROFIT project and head of research group in Aging, Fragility and Transitions in Barcelona (REFiT BCN) at VHIR: “Various studies on physical activity and cancer demonstrate the benefits of physical activity in people with cancer, including an improvement in muscle mass, physical function and strength, as well as less fatigue and even a better tolerance of the oncological treatment. However, and although the prevalence of cancer increases significantly with age, along with that of other diseases, older people are still excluded from these studies. This fact makes it difficult to prescribe physical activity in elderly people with cancer and justifies the need to measure and take into account the degree of fragility of each person when evaluating possible treatments.”

For this clinical trial, the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili and the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute call on the population to ensure that a total of 90 people aged 65 or older and with a diagnosis of cancer are enrolled. Patients with prostate, lung, colon, rectum, liver-biliary, pancreas or oesophagus-gastric cancer, with and without ganglion affectation, and with moderate-mild fragility are included.

For two and a half months, the participants in the study will carry out custom exercise guidelines that are totally adapted to them, with the help of physiotherapists specialised in psychogeriatrics, twice a week, in person, in a gym at the Parc Pere Virgili in Barcelona. In a second phase, participants exercise remotely, using a mobile application. Three and six months after the end of the physical exercise programme in person, they are monitored to evaluate the patient’s psycho-physical health status and functionality and see if the results achieved are maintained or not, or improved, even.

The study will have a total of 270 participants in the three centres (Catalonia, Andorra and Navarra), and the first results are expected at the end of 2024.

Oncology and geriatrics, hand in hand, to improve attention to elderly people suffering from cancer

Individualised care of elderly people with cancer and joint work between oncology and geriatrics to offer the best possible attention to sick elderly people is one of the main research objects of the PROFIT project.

According to various studies, it is estimated that 50% of the elderly will suffer or have had cancer at some point in their lives. This poses a challenge to the health system, which, in order to provide good quality in service, will have to provide more intensive treatment to more robust patients and be more conservative and prioritise comfort in more fragile patients.

The clinical trial of the PROFIT project, in parallel with Barcelona, is also being carried out in Andorra and Navarra.

Those interested in participating in the clinical trial may email espaisperevirgili@perevirgili.cat or call 932 594 024 or 932 59 40 16 and ask for the PROFIT project, carried out by the REFiT BCN research group.

 It is the first multicentre study on physical activity and cancer in older people in Catalonia

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