Mind-Body Fitness Classes During Cancer Treatment Reduced Unplanned Hospitalizations, Urgent Care Visits

For immediate release
October 23, 2023


Rachel Cagan Facci

ASCO Perspective Quote 

“This trial demonstrated that a virtual mind-body fitness program can be delivered seamlessly for patients with cancer and reduce complications from treatment. Future research is needed to evaluate whether this type of program can be implemented at larger practices,” said Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, FASCO, ASCO Expert. 

Study at-a-Glance 

Supportive care for patients with cancer undergoing active treatment 
200 patients with breast, thoracic, gynecologic, head/neck, and melanoma cancers 
Main Takeaway 
A virtual mind-body fitness program reduced unplanned hospitalizations by half, the amount of hospitalization days by half, and urgent care visits by half among patients undergoing active cancer treatment. 
  • Evidence supports mind-body fitness to improve common symptoms of cancer treatment. 
  • While patients with cancer are encouraged to exercise, many may have trouble finding exercise classes that meet their needs during treatment or that they can participate in from home.  

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new interventional study found that participation in virtual mind-body fitness classes reduced hospitalizations, length of hospital stays, and urgent care visits by half. The research will be presented at the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Quality Care Symposium taking place October 28-29 in Boston.  

About the Study  

“Evidence shows that fitness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and music therapy can improve common symptoms of cancer treatment such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. However, there is no research examining how to make these activities accessible to patients with cancer from the comfort of their homes. Further, no research has evaluated whether practicing these therapies from home can reduce a patient’s likelihood of being admitted to the hospital,” said lead study author Jun J. Mao, MD, MSCE, chief of Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

In this novel basket study, 200 patients with of breast (36.5%), thoracic (24.5%), gynecologic (21.5%), head/neck (12.5%), or melanoma (5%) cancers who reported moderate or greater fatigue while receiving active cancer treatment were randomized to participate in the Integrative Medicine at Home (IM@Home) weekly virtual live mind-body fitness classes or to enhanced usual care (EUC), which consisted of standard of care plus access to pre-recorded online meditation resources. Patients were a median age of 59.9 years; 90.5% female and 9.5% male; 77.5% White, 9% Black, 7% Asian, and 89% non-Hispanic.  

Key Findings 

  • Patients in the IM@Home group were less likely to be hospitalized (5.1% vs. 13.9%) and spent fewer days in the hospital (5.4 vs. 9.4 days per patient) compared to patients in the EUC group. 
  • While the percentage of patients who needed to visit urgent case was similar between groups, (9.1% IM@Home vs. 11.9% EUC), the number of urgent care visits per patients was almost half in IM@Home compared to the EUC arm. 
  • According to the authors, patients who participated in the IM@Home group had significantly less fatigue, psychological distress, and physical symptoms as compared to usual care. 

Next Steps  

The researchers are planning trials to determine if the IM@Home intervention can improve patients’ adherence to cancer treatment, health care utilization, and survival in specific tumor types. They also plan to replicate these results in trials of larger sample size and further study how this type of intervention can improve patient and health system outcomes.  

This study was funded by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Institutes of Health. 



About ASCO: 

Founded in 1964, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) is committed to the principle that knowledge conquers cancer. Together with the Association for Clinical Oncology, ASCO represents nearly 50,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of high quality, equitable patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, supports ASCO by funding groundbreaking research and education across cancer’s full continuum. Learn more at www.ASCO.org, explore patient education resources at www.Cancer.Net, and follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.