Breast Cancer Rehabilitation Research

Felix Viktor and Verena Vonesch Breast Cancer Rehabilitation Research Project  

Chief Investigators: Adam Lloyd, Director, HIVE; Kylie Hill, Associate Professor Physiotherapy, Curtin, Ru-Wen Teh, Head of Department Medical Oncology RPH 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in Australia and the second most common cancer of cause death in women. Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of the cells lining the breast lobules or ducts. These cells grow uncontrollably and have the potential to spread to other parts of the body, it can affect people of all genders but is most common for women.  

Many people diagnosed with breast cancer will undergo chemotherapy to help shrink the cancer before having surgery.  Chemotherapy is associated with a significant reduction in quality of life and impaired physical and mental functioning in many patients that may take many months to recover to baseline.  Recent evidence suggests prehabilitation – essentially maximising physical functioning prior to therapy – may reduce the impact of chemotherapy on patients' quality of life and speed up recovery times. 

As the current model of care is for chemotherapy to be given for some months prior to surgery there is the potential to improve patients’ outcomes from both chemotherapy and surgery by investing in “intra-therapy rehabilitation”.  Telehealth with biomonitoring is likely to be an important method to deliver care to patients, so they can interact with healthcare professionals without needing to leave their home. 

Royal Perth Hospital is now one of the world leaders in the use of biomonitoring to improve patient outcomes, both inpatients and now in outpatient programs in mental health and residential care.  It is well documented that sleep duration and quality and physical activity correlate with mental health and predict physical decline.  Equally incorporation of standard physiological parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and temperature may help predict early complications of chemotherapy (often infections), leading to earlier intervention and better outcomes, including less hospitalisations. 

Thanks to the generous gift in memory of Felix Viktor and Verena Vonesch, RPH Research Foundation is funding this new clinical trial that will study intra-therapy rehabilitation supported by biomonitoring with a wearable device versus standard of care supported using telehealth technology. 

This project aims to provide patients with a better quality of life and less fatigue during chemotherapy. During the two-year trial of combining a novel intra-therapy rehabilitation program with biomonitoring during chemotherapy, we hope to see a faster rate of recovery of quality-of-life post-surgery and return to baseline activity. Overall, the project also aims to see fewer hospitalisations due to chemotherapy-related complications.  

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