Trial helps men with prostate cancer

Trial helps men with prostate cancer lock-down exercise benefits

Fitness training might seem like a big ask in combination with cancer treatment, add in a global pandemic and it becomes an even more Herculean effort. But a Melbourne clinical trial wants to keep things moving for men with prostate cancer, as a way of improving their heart health.

The EX-HEART trial is testing if a targeted exercise program can help reduce the risk of heart disease in men with prostate cancer receiving hormone treatment. While these potent anti-cancer therapies improve survival, these men also experience a wide range of side effects, including heart disease.

But with Melbourne’s gyms closed for the better part of six months, researcher Ashley Bigaran, a PhD student at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, has had to get creative to deliver her program. Adapting to the pandemic has meant switching exercise sessions to telehealth over Zoom so her trial participants can maintain their workout plans at home.

“Physical activity levels decrease following a cancer diagnosis and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely these men will be moving even less, so it has been crucial to adapt our programs to offer support remotely,” Ashley said.

“We know the benefits of exercise during cancer treatment are clear, including improvements in symptoms such as fatigue, management of anxiety and depression, maintenance of physical function and quality of life.”

Everyday more than 45 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Australia. While the five-year survival rate of prostate cancer has improved from 59 per cent in 1986 to 95 percent in 2019, survivors can be left with an increased risk of developing heart disease.

“What we hope to understand better as we progress this study is whether using a targeted exercise program started at the same time as hormone treatment can reduce this risk,” Ashley said.

Participants in the EX-HEART trial take part in a three-month exercise program, supervised by accredited exercise physiologists who specialise in prostate cancer. They also receive comprehensive cardiovascular screening before treatment, and three and 12 months after.

The trial has now re-started recruitment and is looking for men aged 40-plus beginning hormone treatment for the first time.

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