Background: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) followed by surgery for resectable oesophageal or gastric cancer improves outcome when compared with surgery alone. However NAC has adverse effects. We assess here whether NAC adversely affects physical fitness and whether such an effect is associated with impaired survival following surgery.
Methods: We prospectively studied 116 patients with oesophageal or gastric cancer to assess the effect of NAC on physical fitness, of whom 89 underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) before NAC and proceeded to surgery. 39 patients were tested after all cycles of NAC but prior to surgery. Physical fitness was assessed by measuring oxygen uptake (VO₂ in ml kg(-1) min(-1)) at the estimated lactate threshold (θL) and at peak exercise (VO₂ peak in ml kg(-1) min(-1)).
Results: VO₂ at θL and at peak were significantly lower after NAC compared to pre-NAC values: VO₂ at θL 14.5 ± 3.8 (baseline) vs. 12.3 ± 3.0 (post-NAC) ml kg(-1) min(-1); p ≤ 0.001; VO₂ peak 20.8 ± 6.0 vs. 18.3 ± 5.1 ml kg(-1) min(-1); p ≤ 0.001; absolute VO₂ (ml min(-1)) at θL and peak were also lower post-NAC; p ≤ 0.001. Decreased baseline VO₂ at θL and peak were associated with increased one year mortality in patients who completed a full course of NAC and had surgery; p = 0.014.
Conclusion: NAC before cancer surgery significantly reduced physical fitness in the overall cohort. Lower baseline fitness was associated with reduced one-year-survival in patients completing NAC and surgery, but not in patients who did not complete NAC. It is possible that in some patients the harms of NAC may outweigh the benefits. Trials Registry Number: NCT01335555.
Keywords: Cancer surgery; Cardiopulmonary exercise testing; Neoadjuvant chemotherapy; Oesphagogastric; Physical fitness; Survival.
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