Fitness trackers to help shape cancer treatment for elderly patients

A three-year pilot study will see elderly cancer patients wear fitness trackers to help shape cancer treatment.

Consultant haemotologist Dr Parrish has been awarded a Clinical Academic Research Partnership by the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health and Care Research for the TRAnsForm project, a sub-study of the NCRRI FiTNEss study.  
Working with the Myeloma UK Clinical Trials Research Unit at the School of Medicine’s Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials Research, the project will explore ways assessing the fitness of older cancer patients can help to help personalise cancer treatment and minimise side effects.  

Patients taking part will wear an activity tracker similar to those often used for sports and exercise, before and during their cancer treatment, for around three months. 

Information from the trackers will then be used to develop better ways of testing frailty – helping doctors to personalise the treatments offered to elderly or frail patients in the future. 

To provide cancer treatment safely and effectively to older people we therefore need to adjust the therapies we use according to an individual's level of fitness, so that more patients can receive treatment and side effects can be reduced.

Dr Christopher Parrish 

Older patients who are actually very fit could benefit from standard treatment – but the study will  help identify patients for whom standard doses are likely to cause multiple side effects, allowing for them to be offered gentler therapies. 

The participants are already part of a large clinical study testing treatments for older adults with multiple myeloma, a common blood cancer.  

However the tools developed could also be used in the future to help people with other cancers and chronic diseases.  

Dr Parrish, from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said:  “I’m absolutely delighted to have been selected for this MRC-NIHR Clinical Academic Research Partnership, which will allow me to work with the team at LICTR to develop an extremely exciting new avenue of clinical trials research, building on our practice-changing portfolio of myeloma research and helping us to improve outcomes for older and frailer individuals with cancer.”