Clinical trial studies effectiveness of diet and exercise in preventing gynecologic cancer recurrence

nci-vol-4278-300According to the American Cancer Society, more than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating nutritiously and staying active. But, until now, no studies have shown if such changes can affect the recurrence of gynecologic cancers.

The Gynecologic Oncology Group is leading a nationwide phase III clinical trial called the “Lifestyle Intervention for Ovarian Cancer Enhanced Survival (LIvES)” study. Led locally by Weldon Chafe, M.D., Dianne Harris Wright Professor of Gynecology Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer Center, this trial is the first to study if diet and exercise can affect cancer recurrence in women treated for ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.

Ovarian cancer begins in the female reproductive glands called ovaries. Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in women.

Fallopian tube cancer is one of the rarest gynecologic cancers, with only 1,500 to 2,000 cases reported each year in the United States. Fallopian tubes are the two tiny ducts that connect the ovaries to the uterus.

Peritoneal cancer is also a rare form of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen, and covers the uterus, bladder and rectum. The peritoneum produces a fluid that helps organs move smoothly inside the abdomen. Peritoneal cancer affects between 2,000 to 10,000 women each year.

The study will involve over 1000 women who have completed treatment for stage II, III or IV ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer and are at risk of recurrence. Half of the women will be asked to follow a diet and physical activity intervention and will receive focused lifestyle coaching, while the other half will continue their current diet and physical activity regimen and will receive general lifestyle coaching. The study will have a two-year duration and will require participants to receive four blood draws and a yearly physical examination and to answer questionnaires.

“We hope to find out if lifestyle changes can affect the length of time that a patient is cancer free and if it will improve their overall quality of life and ability to be physically active,” says Chafe.

For all types of ovarian cancer, the five-year relative survival rate is 44 percent. But if it is found and treated early (before the cancer has spread to the outside of the ovary), the survival rate increases to 92 percent. Since only 15 percent of all ovarian cancers are found at an early stage, finding ways to prevent recurrence and prolong survival of patients is vital.

“Finding new ways to reduce recurrent disease in gynecologic cancer survivors is an important focus of current research,” Chafe adds.

For more information about this trial, call Pat Dodson, R.N., at (804) 628-2582. For more on gynecologic oncology clinical trials at VCU Massey Cancer Center, call Jane Baggett, R.N., at (804) 628-2360. Massey provides one of the largest offerings of clinical trials in Virginia evaluating the latest cancer treatments for adult and pediatric patients. View a complete list of all active clinical trials available at VCU Massey.