The feasibility and acceptability of trial procedures for a pragmatic randomised controlled trial of a structured physical activity intervention for people diagnosed with colorectal cancer: findings from a pilot trial of cardiac rehabilitation versus usual care (no rehabilitation) with an embedded qualitative study

Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2016 Aug 24;2:51. doi: 10.1186/s40814-016-0090-y. eCollection 2016.


Background: Pilot and feasibility work is conducted to evaluate the operational feasibility and acceptability of the intervention itself and the feasibility and acceptability of a trials' protocol design. The Cardiac Rehabilitation In Bowel cancer (CRIB) study was a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of cardiac rehabilitation versus usual care (no rehabilitation) for post-surgical colorectal cancer patients. A key aim of the pilot trial was to test the feasibility and acceptability of the protocol design.

Methods: A pilot RCT with embedded qualitative work was conducted in three sites. Participants were randomly allocated to cardiac rehabilitation or usual care groups. Outcomes used to assess the feasibility and acceptability of key trial parameters were screening, eligibility, consent, randomisation, adverse events, retention, completion, missing data, and intervention adherence rates. Colorectal patients' and clinicians' perceptions and experiences of the main trial procedures were explored by interview.

Results: Quantitative study. Three sites were involved. Screening, eligibility, consent, and retention rates were 79 % (156/198), 67 % (133/198), 31 % (41/133), and 93 % (38/41), respectively. Questionnaire completion rates were 97.5 % (40/41), 75 % (31/41), and 61 % (25/41) at baseline, follow-up 1, and follow-up 2, respectively. Sixty-nine percent (40) of accelerometer datasets were collected from participants; 31 % (20) were removed for not meeting wear-time validation. Qualitative study: Thirty-eight patients and eight clinicians participated. Key themes were benefits for people with colorectal cancer attending cardiac rehabilitation, barriers for people with colorectal cancer attending cardiac rehabilitation, generic versus disease-specific rehabilitation, key concerns about including people with cancer in cardiac rehabilitation, and barriers to involvement in a study about cardiac rehabilitation.

Conclusions: The study highlights where threats to internal and external validity are likely to arise in any future studies of similar structured physical activity interventions for colorectal cancer patients using similar methods being conducted in similar contexts. This study shows that there is likely to be potential recruitment bias and potential imprecision due to sub-optimal completion of outcome measures, missing data, and sub-optimal intervention adherence. Hence, strategies to manage these risks should be developed to stack the odds in favour of conducting successful future trials.

Trial registration: ISRCTN63510637.

Keywords: Acceptability; Cardiac rehabilitation; Colorectal cancer; Feasibility; Physical activity; Pilot.