A study looking at how chemotherapy affects fitness levels

Cancer type:

Oesophageal cancer
Stomach cancer





This study looked at whether chemotherapy can affect people’s fitness. It was for people with cancer of the stomach or oesophagus (food pipe). They were due to have chemotherapy and then an operation to remove their cancer.

The study was open for people to join between 2011 and 2016. The team published the results in 2021.

More about this trial

Doctors usually treat stomach cancer and oesophageal cancer with surgery if they can. Sometimes people have chemotherapy, or chemotherapy and radiotherapy, first. This is to help make the cancer smaller and easier to remove.

When this trial was done, some hospitals were using a heart and lung test called a cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). They used it to measure people’s fitness before surgery.

Researchers wanted to use CPET to measure fitness before and after chemotherapy. And then look to see if there were any links with how well people did after their operation.

Summary of results

As part of this study, a total of 100 people:

  • did the first cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET)
  • had chemotherapy, or chemotherapy and radiotherapy together
  • did the second CPET
  • had surgery to remove their cancer
  • had follow up appointments after surgery

The research team looked at people’s fitness before and after chemotherapy or chemoradiotherapy Open a glossary item.

They found that people’s baseline fitness level before starting chemotherapy was linked to how well they did after surgery. Those who were more fit did better than those who were less fit.

They also found that people were less fit after chemotherapy, compared to before chemotherapy. But this change in fitness was not linked to how well people did after their operation.

The team found that there was no link between fitness levels and:

  • the side effects people had from chemotherapy
  • people’s quality of life Open a glossary item

They say it is important for healthcare professionals to think about people’s fitness before having these treatments.

More detailed information
There is more information about this research in the reference below.

Please note, the information we link to here is not in plain English. It has been written for healthcare professionals and researchers.

The effects of cancer therapies on physical fitness before oesophagogastric cancer surgery: a prospective, blinded, multi-centre, observational, cohort study [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]
M West and others
NIHR Open Research, 2021. Volume1, issue 1.

Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on the information in the article above. This has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. We have not analysed the data ourselves. As far as we are aware, the link we list above is active and the article is free and available to view.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Mike Grocott

Supported by

NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme
NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre
University Hospitals Southampton

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials in the UK last year.

Last reviewed:

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