Physical Fitness and Chemotherapy Tolerance in Patients with Early-Stage Breast Cancer.



We pooled individual patient data from two randomized exercise trials that studied exercise programs in early breast cancer: the Physical Exercise During Adjuvant Chemotherapy Effectiveness Study (n = 230) and the Physical Activity during Chemotherapy Treatment (n = 204) study. Logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association between pretreatment fitness and achieving an optimal RDI (≥85%). In addition, we added an interaction term to the model to explore the potential moderating effect of participating in an exercise program.


An optimal relative dose intensity (RDI) of adjuvant chemotherapy is associated with better survival in patients with breast cancer. Little is known about the role of physical fitness in attaining an adequate RDI in patients with early-stage breast cancer. We investigated the association between pretreatment physical fitness and RDI in this population.


Early-stage breast cancer patients with relatively lower levels of pretreatment physical fitness have lower odds of achieving an optimal dose of chemotherapy. Given that physical fitness is modifiable and our results suggest that following a moderate-to-high intensity exercise training during chemotherapy could improve treatment completion, clinicians should not refrain from referring patients to supportive exercise programs because of low fitness.


Data were available for 419 patients (mean age at diagnosis, 50.0 ± 8.6 yr). In the total sample, lower pretreatment physical fitness was associated with significantly lower odds of achieving ≥85% RDI: age-adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 0.66 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.46-0.94). In patients allocated to the supervised exercise intervention during chemotherapy (n = 173), the association between pretreatment physical fitness and RDI was almost completely mitigated (OR, 0.95 (95% CI, 0.54-1.56)), whereas it was more pronounced in patients who received care as usual (n = 172; OR, 0.31 (95% CI, 0.13-0.63); Pinteraction = 0.022).

More about this publication

Medicine and science in sports and exercise
  • Volume 54
  • Issue nr. 4
  • Pages 537-542
  • Publication date 01-04-2022

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