£1.1 million clinical trial to assess impact of exercise on cancer outcomes

6 May 2022
Fitness workout equipment

Hull York Medical School has been awarded £1.1 million from Yorkshire Cancer Research to conduct a clinical trial which will assess the impact of personalised, home-based exercise programmes for people with lung, bowel or breast cancer.  

Current evidence suggests that regular exercise before, during and after cancer treatment can reduce the risk of dying from bowel or breast cancer by as much as 40% compared to those who are inactive. 

The study will be led by Dr Cynthia Forbes, Research Fellow at Hull York Medical School, the University of Hull. It will involve 660 people in Yorkshire, who, as part of the trial, will receive personalised support from specially trained exercise professionals. 

She says: "Yorkshire has one of the highest cancer death rates in England, and there is an urgent need to optimise treatment and ensure more people survive. While current evidence suggests that there is a direct link between regular exercise and cancer outcomes, further research is needed to fully understand the benefit of exercise on cancer related disease outcomes.  

"Through this trial we aim to find out if home-based exercise can not only help increase survival rates, but also ascertain if it will help people recover from treatment more quickly and reduce recurrence."

According to Yorkshire Cancer Research, approximately 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in Yorkshire, with lung, breast and bowel cancer the most common types and combined with prostate cancer accounted for more than half of all cancers diagnosed in the region in 2018. People are also more likely to get and die from cancer in Yorkshire than almost anywhere in the UK.  

Dr Forbes goes on to say: "If successful, the study could lead to a future larger scale trial that would provide evidence for a new model of personalised exercise programmes that could be implemented at part of standard care, this could potentially improve cancer-related and quality of life outcomes in more than 1,700 people with early-stage, high-risk lung, breast or bowel cancer across Yorkshire. Our findings could also impact national guidance, helping people further afield too."

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: "Yorkshire is one of the regions hardest hit by cancer, and that’s why it’s so important that people living here are able to take part in pioneering and innovative studies. With cancer screening, GP appointments, diagnostic tests and treatment significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have a huge task on our hands. Trials such as this will save lives."

Hull York Medical School is the joint medical school of the Universities of Hull and York. The School has a proven track record in cancer research with current research programmes to tackle cancer inequalities totalling £5.2 million. These programmes build on previous work and mean the Medical School and University are continuing to substantially impact the ways in which cancer is understood, diagnosed and treated.

Professor Una Macleod, Dean of the Medical School, GP and a national leader in cancer research herself, says:

"Cancer incidence, mortality and survival rates are often worse for those living in Yorkshire than across England as a whole, and they are especially bad in Hull. The picture worsens for the elderly and for those from socially-deprived communities.  

"Through our research we aim to identify why these differences exist, and how to reduce inequalities, speed up referrals, and improve access to care and treatment. 

"We are grateful for the continuing support of Yorkshire Cancer Research and believe that together we can improve outcomes for those living with cancer and their families in our region, and further afield."

For media enquiries contact: University of Hull Press Office, telephone: +44 (0)1482 465268 or email: pr@hull.ac.uk