Can Nutrition and Exercise Help Cancer Survivors?

Article Summary
  • Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher Dr. Tracy Crane and colleagues have launched the OnPOINT clinical trial to better understand how personalized approaches to nutrition and exercise can improve quality of life and wellness after cancer treatment.
  • The OnPOINT trial is focusing on precisely catering diet and exercise recommendations to individual cancer survivors.
  • Researchers will use data derived from an algorithm to group trial participants and provide precise and appropriate interventions.

A healthy diet and regular exercise improves cancer survivors’ lives. But how do health care providers tailor broadly accessible lifestyle programs that meet individual survivors’ needs?

Tracy E. Crane, Ph.D., RDN, co-lead of the Cancer Control Program at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is working to answer that question.

Dr. Crane, also Sylvester’s director of lifestyle medicine, prevention and digital health, and a team of researchers have launched the Precision Oncology Interventions in Nutrition and Training (OnPOINT) clinical trial to better understand how personalized approaches to nutrition and exercise can improve quality of life and wellness after cancer treatment.

Woman with head scarf at home cutting fruit and vegetables in the kitchen.
Sylvester researchers including Dr. Tracy Crane are looking into the best ways to develop effective lifestyle modification interventions for cancer patients.

The $700,000, three-year study, funded by The Applebaum Foundation and Sylvester, will focus initially on adults treated for breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. Those are the most common cancer types in the U.S., representing more than 50% of cancer survivors and about 9 million people, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Precision Interventions for Cancer Survivors

OnPOINT researchers are focusing on developing individualized nutrition and physical activity programs for cancer survivors with complex needs.

Three-hundred participants enroll in an eight-week trial, with interventions catered to each survivor, according to OnPOINT co-investigator Paola Rossi, M.D., clinical program director of lifestyle medicine at Sylvester.

“All oncology is moving toward the delivery of precise interventions—getting the right intervention at the right time for the right individual,” Dr. Rossi said. “This study aims to do that with lifestyle strategies.”

An Algorithm for Cancer Intervention

Researchers will use trial data to develop an algorithm that helps guide decision making about precise lifestyle support.

Dr. Tracy Crane
Dr. Tracy Crane and colleagues are assessing six methods for providing diet and exercise information to cancer patients.

At baseline, Dr. Crane and colleagues will evaluate each survivor’s physical fitness and diet using wearable fitness tracker data, proven tests and participant reports of diet, exercise, sleeping habits and more. They’ll also assess symptoms and quality of life.

“The algorithm will place participants into one of three groups: low-, moderate- or high-complexity. The level of diet and exercise intervention will vary in each group,” Dr. Crane said. “For those whose needs fall into the high-complexity category, they will have one-on-one support with a dietitian and exercise physiologist providing lifestyle support. The low-complexity group may only need text messaging support with a wearable device and journaling to keep them on track.”

After eight weeks and again at six months, researchers will repeat the assessments.  

“Our primary objective is feasibility. In this trial we’re trying several approaches,” Dr. Crane said. “We’re assessing wearable data and how it impacts clinical decision-making. We’re assessing the algorithm. And, at the end of the day, we’re testing six different ways of delivering nutrition and exercise information.”

The Provider Perspective

All these data and decision-making capabilities won’t do anybody any good if they’re not used, said Dr. Crane.

The study also uses Sylvester’s proprietary My Wellness Research tool to ask health care providers what they want to know about their patients and at what level they want to be involved in lifestyle modification.

“We will mock up different visuals of how providers will see patient-generated data in the electronic health record and get their feedback in how it’s presented and what they want to see,” Dr. Crane said.

It’s a big undertaking with a big goal: to better focus interventions and help individuals live healthy lives after cancer treatment.

Dr. Crane plans to expand OnPOINT recruitment to blood cancer survivors, as well.

“We will need to tailor the study materials and recruitment strategies to this new population, so it will not be ready until sometime in the spring of 2024,” she said. “We are, however, excited to offer this study and additional support for the patients in Sylvester’s hematology-oncology clinics.”

Tags: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, Dr. Tracy Crane, prostate cancer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center