Ovarian cancer research receives welcome boost

Whether exercise as therapy can improve quality of life for women with recurring ovarian cancer is the focus of a new $884,172 Medical Research Future Fund grant awarded to Griffith University researchers.

Announced by the Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt MP on World Ovarian Cancer Day, the collaborative project includes researchers from the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Mater Hospital, Brisbane, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation and the Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

The phase II trial will evaluate the feasibility, safety and effects on physical wellbeing, quality of life, physical function, body composition and treatment-related side effects, of an exercise intervention during chemotherapy for recurrent ovarian cancer.

“Ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate with nearly 80% diagnosed at an advanced stage and a five-year survival rate of less than 30%,’’ said lead researcher Professor Sandi Hayes from Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“Women with recurrent ovarian cancer report high treatment-related side effects and unmet supportive care needs. As it’s essentially incurable, the aim of treatment is to maximise length and quality of life.”

“Women with recurrent ovarian cancer report high treatment-related

side effects and unmet supportive care needs”

Professor Hayes said exercise therapy was now promoted as part of best-practice cancer care.

“Yet, the vast majority of the evidence in support of exercise during and following cancer treatment stems from studies in patients with early-stage disease and predicted ‘good’ prognosis.

“There is an urgent need to determine if exercise is also appropriate and beneficial in cancer cohorts with low-survival and higher cancer- and treatment-related morbidity, such as is the case for women with recurrent ovarian cancer.”

Open to all women with recurrent ovarian cancer including those with rare subtypes, the six-month exercise intervention trial will follow recently published national exercise prescription guidelines for cancer patients.

The guidelines recommend individualised prescription of aerobic and resistance exercise at moderate or higher intensity.

“This trial will determine the effects of an exercise program for recurrent ovarian cancer on health outcomes that matter to patients, their treating clinicians and will influence health resource use.”