Exercise during CHemotherapy for Ovarian cancer – The ECHO trial

Ovarian cancer is the most common cause of gynaecological cancer death in Australian women, with an overall 5-year survival rate of only 44%, compared to a 5-year survival rate of 99% in women with localised breast cancer. Symptoms of ovarian cancer and side-effects from treatment can negatively impact a woman’s physical wellbeing and quality of life, with treatment typically involving extensive abdominal surgery and intense chemotherapy.

There are several position stands endorsed by national and international organisations (e.g. Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, Exercise and Sports Science Australia, American College of Sports Medicine) which outline the value of physical activity and exercise during and following cancer treatment. It has been shown in cancer populations, such as breast and prostate, that exercise during chemotherapy treatment can improve physical wellbeing and quality of life, as well as reducing the number and severity of side effects (e.g. pain and fatigue). It is hypothesised that exercise may also help women with ovarian cancer to better tolerate full chemotherapy doses (leading to improved survival) by lessening the severity of treatment-related side-effects and reducing treatment toxicity.

The ECHO study (Exercise during CHemotherapy for Ovarian cancer) is a randomised control trial that will evaluate the effects of exercise in women undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Women in the study are randomised to usual care or receiving an individualised exercise program designed by an accredited exercise physiologist for the duration of their treatment. The ECHO study will examine outcomes including physical wellbeing, physical function, chemotherapy-related adverse events and adherence, quality of life, fatigue, anxiety, depression, progression-free survival and overall survival.

To date, 150 women have participated in the ECHO study. If you would like more information about participating in the trial, please contact the project coordinator, Melissa Creed (mj.newton@qut.edu.au).

Women who wish to participate need to be aged 18 years or over, newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and scheduled for chemotherapy. The exercise intervention, delivered by accredited exercise physiologists, will span the duration of chemotherapy and involve individual prescription of aerobic- and resistance-based exercise at moderate-intensity. The accredited exercise physiologist will support participants throughout the intervention and modify exercises based on the individual’s treatment, side-effects, goals and exercise preferences. The control arm will be usual care alone.