Research Study Abstract

Peer support for the maintenance of physical activity and health in cancer survivors: the PEER trial – a study protocol of a randomised controlled trial

  • Published on July 3, 2019

Despite an overwhelming body of evidence showing the benefits of physical activity (PA) and exercise for cancer survivors, few survivors meet the exercise oncology guidelines. Moreover, initiating, let alone maintaining exercise programs with cancer survivors continues to have limited success. The aim of this trial is to evaluate the influence of peer support on moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and various markers of health 12 months following a brief supervised exercise intervention in cancer survivors.

Men and women previously diagnosed with histologically-confirmed breast, colorectal or prostate cancer (n = 226), who are >1-month post-treatment, will be invited to participate in this trial. Once enrolled, participants will complete 4 weeks (12 sessions) of supervised high intensity interval training (HIIT). On completion of the supervised phase, both groups will be provided with written recommendations and verbally encouraged to achieve three HIIT sessions per week, or equivalent exercise that meets the exercise oncology guidelines. Participants will be randomly assigned to receive 12 months of peer support, or no peer support (control). Primary and secondary outcomes will be assessed at baseline, after the 4-week supervised HIIT phase and at 3-, 6- and 12-months. Primary outcomes will include accelerometry-derived MVPA and prescribed HIIT session adherence; whilst secondary outcomes will include cardiorespiratory fitness (V˙O2peak), body composition, quality of life and select cytokines, myokines and inflammatory markers. Random effects mixed modelling will be used to compare mean changes in outcomes between groups at each time point. A group x time interaction will be used to formally test for differences between groups (alpha =0.05); utilising intention-to-treat analyses.

If successful, peer support may be proposed, adopted and implemented as a strategy to encourage cancer survivors to maintain exercise beyond the duration of a short-term, supervised intervention. A peer support-exercise model has the long-term potential to reduce comorbidities, improve physical and mental wellbeing, and significantly reduce the burden of disease in cancer survivors.


  • Kirsten N. Adlard 1
  • David G. Jenkins 1
  • Chloe E. Salisbury 1
  • Kate A. Bolam 2
  • Sjaan R. Gomersall 3
  • Joanne F. Aitken 4,5,6,7
  • Suzanne K. Chambers 5,6,8,9
  • Jeff C. Dunn 4,5,6,10
  • Kerry S. Courneya 11
  • Tina L. Skinner 1


  • 1

    School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

  • 2

    Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

  • 3

    School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

  • 4

    Cancer Council Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

  • 5

    Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern QLD, Springfield, QLD, Australia

  • 6

    Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD, Australia

  • 7

    School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

  • 8

    Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

  • 9

    Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA, Australia

  • 10

    School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

  • 11

    Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


BMC Cancer

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