Commercial fitness trackers that alert users of step counts, heart rate and sleep quality may prove to be beneficial for patients undergoing cancer treatment.
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have found that fitness trackers can aid in the daily functioning and the quality of life for cancer patients during treatment.
“One of the challenges in treating patients with advanced cancer is obtaining ongoing, timely, objective data about their physical status during therapy,” Andrew Hendifar, MD, the medical director for pancreatic cancer at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “After all, patients typically spend most of their time at home or work, not in a clinic, and their health statuses change from day to day.”
The researchers examined 37 patients undergoing advanced cancer treatment at Cedars-Sinai, who wore wrist-mounted fitness trackers throughout the study, except when swimming or showering. The investigators collected sets of activity data for three consecutive visits during treatment and following the final clinical visit, the patients were followed for six months to gather additional clinical and survival outcomes.
The team then compared the data from the trackers with the patients’ own assessments of symptoms, including pain, fatigue and sleep quality, which was collected as part of a National Institutes of Health questionnaire.
The data sets were compared using the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status (ECOG) and Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS) scales.
These results suggest that objective data collected from wearable activity monitors can supplement and enhance current assessments of health status and physical function, which is often limited by their subjectivity and potential for bias.
In the study, increased daily steps and stair activity also correlated with more positive ratings of a patient’s condition on the surveys, as well as lower rates of adverse events and hospitalization.
“Data gathered through advancements in technology has the potential to help physicians measure the impact of a particular treatment on a patient’s daily functioning,” Gillian Gresham, PhD, postdoctoral scientist at the cancer institute, said in a statement. “Furthermore, continuous activity monitoring may help predict and monitor treatment complications and allow for more timely and appropriate interventions.”
The researchers now plan to study the long-term use of fitness tracking monitors in a larger, more diverse group of advanced cancer patients and then correlate the data with clinical and self-reported outcomes.
“Our hope is that findings from future studies with wearable activity monitors could lead to development of individualized treatment and exercise plans that may result in increased treatment tolerability and improved survival outcomes for patients,” Hendifar said.
The researchers also believe that they can tailor standard follow-up regimens for cancer to each patient, offering a more precise follow-up for patients.
The study was published in npj Digital Medicine.