The ECHO trial: Exercise during Chemotherapy for Ovarian cancer

As many of you know I lead a research team at the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer (QCGC) and the great work that the unit does could not be completed without the dedication of the entire research team. We develop clinical trial protocols, oversee the conduct of these clinical trials, liaise with gynaecological surgeons in Australia and overseas to enroll patients, liaise with statistical teams to analyse the trials’ outcomes and I present them at national and international conferences and in peer reviewed articles.  At QCGC Research we have completed 10 randomised, clinical trials since its inception in 2003 and many trials are still ongoing.

I am extremely excited to announce our current ECHO trial has received funding from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International for further expansion. The ECHO trial evaluates the effects of an exercise intervention during firstline chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.

women cancer

Ovarian cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer.  During treatment, chemotherapy-related adverse effects are common and contribute to a decline in physical wellbeing and quality of life. Only 32% of Australian women treated with chemotherapy for ovarian cancer actually complete the standard chemotherapy without dose restrictions or delay.

Participating in exercise during chemotherapy for other cancer types has been shown to reduce the number and severity of physical and psychosocial treatment-related side effects and improve a patients’ quality of life. There is also preliminary evidence in the breast cancer setting showing an association between participation in exercise and greater adherence to chemotherapy. 

The ECHO randomised controlled trial will allow us to test the effects of exercise during ovarian cancer chemotherapy with outcomes of interest including physical wellbeing; chemotherapy-related adverse events and adherence; physical function; quality of life; health resource use; and progression-free survival.

The ECHO trial originally received funding from Cancer Australia and Cancer Council Australia which allowed us to develop and recruit the first 80 women in the trial. This WCRF grant will allow us to expand the recruitment, intervention delivery and completion of the trial (data collection, analyses and write-up) for a further 250 women.

I am excited to be part of a trial that will potentially further improve outcomes for women undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer. I will keep you up to date as the trial progresses.

If you would like more information about participating in the trial contact the principal investigator Prof Sandi Hayes,

Women who wish to participate need to be 18 years of age or over, be newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and scheduled for chemotherapy. The exercise intervention, to be delivered by accredited exercise physiologists, will span the duration of chemotherapy (approximately 18 weeks) and involve the individual prescription of aerobic- and resistance-based exercise at moderate-intensity, accumulating 150+ minutes per week.

What would I do if I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (or any other malignancy that also males can acquire)? Physical exercise would be on the top of my list of things that I would do. There is a clear trend in the literature that women who are physically fit will do better if they develop cancer.  

If you wish to receive regular information, tips, resources, reassurance and inspiration for up-to-date care, that is safe and sound and in line with latest research please subscribe here to receive my blog, or like Dr Andreas Obermair on Facebook. Should you find this article interesting, please feel free to share it. 

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