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J Thorac Oncol. 2009 May;4(5):595-601. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e31819d18e5.

A structured exercise program for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.



Exercise improves functional outcome and symptoms for certain cancer populations, but the feasibility, efficacy, and safety of structured exercise in patients with lung cancer is unknown. In this study, we examined the feasibility of a hospital-based exercise program for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.


This study included patients with newly diagnosed advanced stage non-small cell lung cancer and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0-1. A physical therapist facilitated twice-weekly sessions of aerobic exercise and weight training over an 8-week period. The primary end point was feasibility of the intervention, defined as adherence to the exercise program. Secondary endpoints included functional capacity, measured by the 6-minute walk test and muscle strength, as well as quality of life, lung cancer symptoms and fatigue, measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-lung and Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-fatigue scales.


Between October 2004 and August 2007, 25 patients enrolled in the study. All participants received anticancer therapy during the study period. Twenty patients (80%) underwent the baseline physical therapy evaluation. Eleven patients (44%) completed all 16 sessions. An additional 6 patients attended at least 6 sessions (range, 6-15), and 2 patients only attended one session. Study completers experienced a significant reduction in lung cancer symptoms and no deterioration in their 6-minute walk test or muscle strength.


Although the majority of participants attempted the exercise program, less than half were able to complete the intervention. Those who completed the program experienced an improvement in their lung cancer symptoms. Community-based or briefer exercise interventions may be more feasible in this population.

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