Physical Activity as a Nonpharmacological Symptom Management Approach in Myeloproliferative Neoplasms: Recommendations for Future Research

Integr Cancer Ther. 2017 Dec;16(4):439-450. doi: 10.1177/1534735416661417. Epub 2016 Jul 24.


Purpose: Essential thrombocythemia, polycythemia vera, and myelofibrosis are rare chronic hematological malignancies known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and are characterized by deregulated myeloid lineage cell production, splenomegaly, and heterogeneous symptom profiles. MPN patients suffer from a significant symptom burden (eg, fatigue, depressive symptoms, early satiety) and an impaired overall quality of life (QoL). Current treatments typically include pharmacological approaches, which may come with additional side effects and may be limited by treatment-associated toxicities (ie, cytopenias). Nonpharmacological approaches such as physical activity may be beneficial for reducing symptom burden and improving QoL. To date, no studies have examined physical activity as a nonpharmacological approach in MPN patients despite preliminary evidence supporting its benefit in other hematological cancers. The purpose of this article is to (1) review the literature related to physical activity and specific hematological cancer subtypes and to (2) make suggestions for future research involving physical activity in MPN patients as a symptom management strategy.

Methods: A brief review of studies examining physical activity in leukemias, lymphomas, and myelomas (excluding stem-cell transplant patients) was conducted.

Results: There is preliminary evidence to suggest that physical activity may be an effective approach to improve patient-reported outcomes (fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep), physical fitness (cardiovascular fitness, balance, body composition), and overall QoL in other hematological cancers.

Conclusions: Based on encouraging findings in other hematological cancers, future research should examine the feasibility and effectiveness of physical activity in MPN patients.

Keywords: aerobic; cancer; exercise; health promotion; quality of life; resistance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Myeloproliferative Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Quality of Life