Now Enrolling: Clinical Trial Tests Effectiveness of Online Strength Training in Slowing Muscle Wasting in Lung Cancer Patients

January 18, 2022 by Jeff Wakefield

Hibba Rehman, M.D.

Among the common side effects of chemotherapy and chemoradiation is a condition called sarcopenia, the wasting of muscle tissue and function. Its onset often signals poorer outcomes for cancer patients, even those receiving the most advanced treatments. 

Resistance training and other forms of exercise have been shown to slow or reverse sarcopenia and its impact on health for cancer patients. But fear of Coronavirus infection has prevented many from participating in guided group exercise sessions organized by medical institutions like the UVM Medical Center. Rural patients, moreover, often lack access to a fitness facility. 

A new clinical trial asks the question: Will an online version of the strength training program—allowing patients to participate safely at home from any location—attract and retain cancer patients effectively, and will the program be successful in blunting sarcopenia development? 

“We have data that shows this kind of exercise in a face-to-face setting helps patients maintain muscle mass and function,” said Hibba Rehman, M.D., a physician researcher at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine and the principal investigator on the clinical trial. “The clinical trial is a feasibility study to see if an online version can be done with this patient population and be effective in preventing sarcopenia.”

Research studies have shown that lung cancer patients who maintain muscle mass and function live longer and have better disease control, Dr. Rehman said. 

Open to Stage 3 and Stage 4 Lung Cancer Patients

The trial is open to stage 3 and 4 lung cancer patients who are able to walk, don’t rely on supplemental oxygen, have the ability to use electronic devices and have adequate internet support. The Cancer Center has some resources available to supply an internet device, like a tablet or laptop computer, to those who need one and qualify for that support.

The 12-week online program will consist of three 30-40 minute weekly supervised resistance training sessions provided by a medical based gym affiliated with UVMMC and led by an expert trainer. 

In addition to addressing sarcopenia, the exercise program offers other benefits, Dr. Rehman said. “Patients’ cardiovascular health can improve, along with mobility and general quality of life,” she said. “The social aspect of regularly interacting with other people, even in a virtual setting, can also improve mood and emotional well-being.” 

Patients interested in participating should contact their healthcare provider or email Emily Chinn at