Can an exercise program ease chemotherapy fatigue?

Anupama Kurup, M.D.
Medical director, Providence Cancer Survivor Program
Medical oncologist, Providence Oncology and Hematology Care Clinic-Westside
CROP Cancer Control principal investigator

Many cancer patients wish to learn ways to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, which can range from nausea to painful neuropathy. One prevalent and persistent problem is fatigue, and it can be difficult to resolve with medications.

Columbia River Oncology Program, or CROP, currently has an exercise study open for cancer patients who will be starting chemotherapy.

URCC 0701, A Study of the Effects of Exercise on Cancer-Related Fatigue


To learn if EXCAP, a walking and muscle-strengthening exercise program, will help reduce cancer-related fatigue during chemotherapy. At this time it is not known if this exercise program will help reduce the fatigue that happens with chemotherapy.

Patients are eligible for the EXCAP if they:

  • Have a primary diagnosis of cancer with no distant metastasis
  • Will be starting chemotherapy treatments for cancer and be scheduled for at least six weeks of treatments, with treatment cycles of either two or three weeks
  • Have a functional capacity rating of 70 or greater on the Karnofsky Performance Scale

Patients are not eligible for the study if they:

  • Have had chemotherapy within the past six months, or will be receiving concurrent radiation therapy
  • Have physical limitations (e.g., cardiorespiratory, orthopedic, central nervous system) that contraindicate participation in a low- to moderate-intensity home-based walking and progressive resistance program
  • Are identified as currently participating in an active exercise program or behavior

What is involved?

The EXCAP program is a six-week, moderately intense daily exercise program done at home. It involves aerobic exercise using pedometer and strength exercises using color-coded resistance band.

Half of the people in this study will perform the six-week EXCAP exercise program and fill out the quality of life questionnaires as part of this study.

The other half will not take part in the six-week exercise program, but will fill out the quality of life questionnaires. These people may take part in the six-week exercise program after completing the questionnaires (after week six).

There are many complementary practices patients can use to be proactive for health and well-being. However, many of these therapies have not been scientifically evaluated for their value. The mission of CROP is to improve the health of our community by promoting understanding, prevention and optimal management of cancer patients through participation in state-of-the-art clinical trials.

As part of that mission, CROP is dedicated to bringing cancer control trials from across the country to our community to provide innovative approaches to cancer therapy with symptom management and complementary therapies.

In addition to the EXCAP study, other CROP cancer control studies include:

  • Ginseng in cancer-related fatigue
  • Flaxseed for hot flashes (minority women only)
  • Soy protein and Effexor for hot flashes in men with prostate cancer
  • Observation study for osteonecrosis of the jaw with Zometa therapy

Interested in learning more about the cancer control trials? Email or call coordinator, Scot Lary, R.N. Call 503-216-6265 or send an email.