Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

Exercise and nutrition for head and neck cancer patients: a patient oriented, clinic-supported randomized controlled trial

Lauren C Capozzi1, Harold Lau34, Raylene A Reimer14, Margaret McNeely5, Janine Giese-Davis23 and S Nicole Culos-Reed124*

Author affiliations

1 Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, KNB 2229 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

2 Department of Oncology, Division of Psychosocial Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

3 Alberta Health Services—Cancer Care, Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Psychosocial Resources, Calgary, Canada

4 Department of Oncology, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, Canada

5 Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta & Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2012, 12:446  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-446

Published: 2 October 2012



Research on physical activity and nutrition interventions aimed at positively impacting symptom management, treatment-related recovery and quality of life has largely excluded head and neck (HN) cancer populations. This translates into a lack of clinical programming available for these patient populations. HN cancer patients deal with severe weight loss, with more than 70% attributed to lean muscle wasting, leading to extended recovery times, decreased quality of life (QoL), and impaired physical functioning. To date, interventions to address body composition issues have focused solely on diet, despite findings that nutritional therapy alone is insufficient to mitigate changes. A combined physical activity and nutrition intervention, that also incorporates important educational components known to positively impact behaviour change, is warranted for this population. Our pilot work suggests that there is large patient demand and clinic support from the health care professionals for a comprehensive program.


Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to examine the impact and timing of a 12-week PA and nutrition intervention (either during or following treatment) for HN cancer patients on body composition, recovery, serum inflammatory markers and quality of life. In addition, we will examine the impact of a 12-week maintenance program, delivered immediately following the intervention, on adherence, patient-reported outcomes (i.e., management of both physical and psychosocial treatment-related symptoms and side-effects), as well as return to work.


This research will facilitate advancements in patient wellness, survivorship, and autonomy, and carve the path for a physical-activity and wellness-education model that can be implemented in other cancer centers.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials NCT01681654

Head/neck cancer; Exercise; Progressive strength training; Quality of life; Cancer; Randomized controlled trial; Nutrition; Lifestyle intervention