Study protocol

BMC Cancer

, 12:401

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

EXERCISE in pediatric autologous stem cell transplant patients: a randomized controlled trial protocol

  • Carolina Chamorro-ViñaAffiliated withFaculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary
  • , Gregory MT GuilcherAffiliated withSection of Pediatric Oncology, Alberta Children’s HospitalFaculty of Medicine, University of CalgaryDivision of Pediatric and Oncology, Alberta Children’s Hospital
  • , Faisal M KhanAffiliated withDepartment of Pathology & Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Heritage Medical Research
  • , Karen MazilAffiliated withSection of Pediatric Oncology, Alberta Children’s HospitalHematology, Oncology, Transplant Program, Alberta Children’s Hospital
  • , Fiona SchulteAffiliated withSection of Pediatric Oncology, Alberta Children’s Hospital
  • , Amanda WurzAffiliated withFaculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary
  • , Tanya WilliamsonAffiliated withFaculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary
  • , Raylene A ReimerAffiliated withFaculty of Kinesiology, University of CalgaryFaculty of Medicine, University of Calgary
  • , S Nicole Culos-ReedAffiliated withFaculty of Kinesiology, University of CalgaryFaculty of Medicine, University of CalgaryDepartment of Psychosocial Resources, Tom Baker Cancer Centre Email author 



Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is an intensive therapy used to improve survivorship and cure various oncologic diseases. However, this therapy is associated with high mortality rates and numerous negative side-effects. The recovery of the immune system is a special concern and plays a key role in the success of this treatment. In healthy populations it is known that exercise plays an important role in immune system regulation, but little is known about the role of exercise in the hematological and immunological recovery of children undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant. The primary objective of this randomized-controlled trial (RCT) is to study the effect of an exercise program (in- and outpatient) on immune cell recovery in patients undergoing an autologous stem cell transplantation. The secondary objective is to determine if an exercise intervention diminishes the usual deterioration in quality of life, physical fitness, and the acquisition of a sedentary lifestyle.


This RCT has received approval from The Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB) of the University of Calgary (Ethics ID # E-24476). Twenty-four participants treated for a malignancy with autologous stem cell transplant (5 to 18 years) in the Alberta Children’s Hospital will be randomly assigned to an exercise or control group. The exercise group will participate in a two-phase exercise intervention (in- and outpatient) from hospitalization until 10 weeks after discharge. The exercise program includes strength, flexibility and aerobic exercise. During the inpatient phase this program will be performed 5 times/week and will be supervised. The outpatient phase will combine a supervised session with two home-based exercise sessions with the use of the Wii device. The control group will follow the standard protocol without any specific exercise program. A range of outcomes, including quantitative and functional recovery of immune system, cytokine levels in serum, natural killer (NK) cells and their subset recovery and function, and gene expression of activating and inhibitory NK cell receptors, body composition, nutrition, quality of life, fatigue, health-related fitness assessment and physical activity levels will be examined, providing the most comprehensive assessment to date.


We expect to find improvements in immunological recovery and quality of life, and decreased acquisition of sedentary behavior and fitness deconditioning. The comprehensive outcomes generated in this RCT will provide preliminary data to conduct a multisite study that will generate stronger outcomes.

Trial registration

Gov identification # NCT01666015


Pediatric Hematopoietic stem cell transplant Cancer Exercise Quality of life Immune system Physical activity levels