Can exercise stop cancer? Colon cancer survivors needed for groundbreaking clinical trial

03 March 2014


Chris BoothA Canadian-led groundbreaking study into the prevention of colon cancer recurrence could potentially change the way cancer is treated by adding exercise to standard treatments. But more participants are needed.

During Colon Cancer Awareness Month in March, the Canadian Cancer Society is encouraging colon cancer survivors to learn about the CHALLENGE clinical trial and consider participating. Contact the Society at 1 888 939-3333 or info@cis.cancer.ca for more information. For a sneak preview, watch two trial colon cancer survivors talk about why they joined the CHALLENGE trial.

“Is it possible that exercise can prevent cancer from recurring? That’s what we’re hoping to discover in the CHALLENGE trial,” says lead researcher Dr Chris Booth, an oncologist at Kingston General Hospital and associate professor at Queen’s University. “This study has the potential to improve both survival and quality of life for survivors of colon cancer. It is an example of world-leading research that is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.”

The CHALLENGE study, led by the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (CTG), is a clinical trial that aims to enroll close to 1,000 high-risk colon cancer survivors who have recently completed treatment with surgery and chemotherapy. The participants will be divided at random into two groups. Both groups will be monitored closely for cancer recurrence with CT scans and surveillance colonoscopy and provided with health education materials.

In addition, the participants in one group will also work with a physical activity consultant to design an exercise program, which could include anything from walking on a treadmill to aerobics depending on their fitness and interests. The goal is for the participants to increase and maintain their level of activity by 150 minutes a week from what they were doing before the study.

Patients in the other group can exercise if they wish but are not provided with a physical activity consultant. Each participant will be followed for three years to discover whether exercise boosts survival rates.

“The CHALLENGE study is the first clinical trial in the world to test whether exercise can improve survival in patients with cancer,” says Dr Booth. “If so, this knowledge could shift the way we treat cancer by incorporating exercise into standard treatments. With few negative side effects and many other health benefits, we think that structured exercise programs would offer an important and cost-effective treatment approach.”

The clinical trial will also study whether exercise improves quality of life for colon cancer survivors.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in Canada. About 40% of patients with stage 3 colon cancer relapse and die from the disease.

“The Canadian Cancer Society’s support of the CHALLENGE study is essential,” says Dr Sian Bevan, Director of Research, Canadian Cancer Society. “It is challenging to secure corporate funding for a clinical trial like this where there is no financial incentive. Thanks to our donors, we are able to support this trial and others that answer important questions about cancer treatment.”

The Canadian Cancer Society provides support to the CHALLENGE study and many other clinical trials through funding to the NCIC CTG, a world leader in conducting cancer clinical trials. The Society invests $5.1 million in the NCIC CTG annually. Learn more about clinical trials at cancer.ca

CHALLENGE trial participant story

Patricia Bogstad is an 80-year-old Kingston resident who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008. She completed surgery and chemotherapy treatments in 2009 and has been participating in the CHALLENGE trial since 2010.

As a participant, Bogstad has regular CT scans and colonoscopy. She also works with a CHALLENGE study physiotherapist who designed an exercise program for her.

“Participating in the clinical trial motivates me to continue with my regular exercise routine and healthy living. It makes me more accountable and more committed to living a balanced life,” says Bogstad. “I hope that the research will prove that regular exercise and a balanced diet have tremendous health benefits, at any age. More importantly, I hope that it will prove that fitness can help keep cancer away.”

About the CHALLENGE study
  • The trial recruited its first patient in 2009 and is global in scope, drawing participants from 20 centres across Canada as well as 26 in Australia and three in Israel.
  • In Ontario, the sites include cancer centres in Kingston, Ottawa, London, Hamilton, St Catharines, Waterloo, Mississauga, Newmarket and Toronto.
  • Currently, there are about 300 patients enrolled and the trial aims to recruit 962 patients.

What can Canadians do to help?
  • Survivors interested in finding out more about the CHALLENGE clinical trial should contact the Canadian Cancer Society at 1 888 939-3333 or info@cis.cancer.ca.
  • Support the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s our donors that make it possible to support world-class innovative research like the CHALLENGE study.

About the NCIC Clinical Trials Group

The NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCIC CTG) is a cancer clinical trials cooperative group that conducts Phase I-III trials testing anti-cancer and supportive therapies across Canada and internationally. It is a national research program of the Canadian Cancer Society. The NCIC CTG’s Central Operations and Statistics Office is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Dorothy on a treadmill

Dorothy and Lyle presenting

Lyle on a treadmill

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca today.

For more information, please contact:

Justin Edmonstone

Public Affairs

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario Division

Phone: 416-323-7026