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Introduction: Advanced pancreatic cancer is still a major challenge in patients’ treatment and is associated with poor prognoses and quality of life. Exercise seems to be a feasible and efficient approach to support the medical therapy in many cancer patients. This case study reports about the impacts of high intensity exercise in an advanced pancreatic cancer patient.
Method: The 46y-old male patient was diagnosed with a stage IV pancreatic cancer and received a palliative chemotherapy for two months, a neoadjuvant chemotherapy for three months (both FOLIFIRINOX), a surgery and an adjuvant chemotherapy (Gemcitabine) for another two months. During the whole medical treatment, the patient performed a high intensity resistance and endurance exercise program twice a week. Data regarding body weight, physical performance, physical activity, fatigue, depression and anxiety and quality of life were measured at baseline, three and seven months after the exercise program started.
Results: The exercise program was well tolerated and feasible. The patient mostly maintained his body weight (-2,3%) and improved his physical performance despite chemotherapy and surgery. The patient’s medical treatment protocol was changed from palliative to neoadjuvant during the exercise period. Additionally, self-reported quality of life and depression and anxiety values improved during the exercise program. Declines were noticed in the patient’s regular physical activity, but still exceeded the international recommendations.
Conclusion: This first case study suggests the feasibility and efficacy of high intensity exercise in an advanced pancreatic cancer patient during medical treatment. Moreover, the exercise program led to clinically relevant improvements in physical and psychological patient outcomes, which may benefit the patient’s tolerance to the medical treatment. Further research should verify these results in randomized-controlled trails and focus on the dose-response relation of exercise.