Sunday, February 28, 2016

Summary of "Randomized Trial of a Physical Activity Intervention in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer"

Randomized Trial of a Physical Activity Intervention in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer was the official title

Then there was the completely misleading title in
Exercise No Aid to Functioning With Advanced Breast Cancer

Shame on them.

I would title this study: Too Little, Too Late
Finding: There was no significant improvement in “physical functioning” in women in the exercise group.

Participants were recruited between September 2006 and March 2011. This study took five years to publish.

There were 101 women initially enrolled in the study but three were dropped before it began.

Consequently baseline data was collected for 98 women (47 in exercise and 51 in control group).

The average time since metastatic disease for those in the exercise group was 26.4 months and in the control group was 20.4 months. If I look back on how I felt six months ago, that feels like a lifetime.
There was enormous attrition with 30 patients who did not complete the entire study (20 from the exercise group and 10 from the control group).

That left 27 in the exercise group and 41 in the control group who completed the entire study, including the treadmill test. Not surprisingly, women having chemotherapy or had the metastatic diagnosis for a longer period were more likely to not complete the exercise intervention.

Women in the intervention group increased their exercise by 64.2 minutes a week compared to the control group of 46 minutes a week (2.6 minutes a day by the exercise group if you are not subtracting).

If you add number of minutes exercise at baseline with the increase in minutes then the control group actually ended up doing more exercise than the treatment group (125.2 min/week vs 119.9). Are we still surprised that there was no difference in outcomes?

My conclusion: Women with only a few months to live are not interested in fighting the fatigue of treatment to start exercising for no known benefit when they have not been exercising before. If there is a Razzie for bullshit science, this gets my nomination.


  1. Now imagine how much this study cost since it followed people for 5 years. A lot... Attrition, no learnings and money gone.

  2. It's just so annoying. Why are these studies even funded?

  3. Hi there!

    My name is Julie Schaeffer and I’m a freelance writer for I’d love to include a few brief comments from you in an article I’m currently working on. The article will offer motivating or inspiring words of wisdom to people affected by metastatic breast cancer—from people who are going through it themselves.

    If interested, please email me at and we can discuss specifics.

    Thank you for sharing your story with so many!


    Julie Schaeffer
    Freelance Writer/Editor
    Allentown, Pennsylvania

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I don't have any inspiring or motivating words. I honestly don't. Most of us with metastatic cancer go through unimaginable grief and suffering every day. In my experience, motivating and inspiring words usually come from those who don't have a rapidly approaching expiry date. When I read the cloying words that are meant to inspire, I think to myself that some people don't have a clue. Actually, I wrote the last line more strongly but tempered my words.