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Isabelle Doré’s team and Fondation Virage Awarded by the Quebec Oncology Program

- 4 min
Équipe d'Isabelle Doré

From left to right: Guillaume Bastarache (Fondation Virage, CHUM), Isabelle Brisson (Fondation Virage, CHUM) / absent on the photo, Maude Bergeron (Fondation Virage, CHUM), Lise Pettigrew (Fondation Virage, CHUM), Isabelle Doré (CRCHUM), Alexia Piché (CRCHUM).

At the Quebec Oncology Program’s 2022 convention, the team working with Isabelle Doré, a researcher in the Innovation Hub Research Theme, along with Fondation Virage, received the 2022 Oncology Award in the “Support for People Living with Cancer” category.

This provincial distinction recognizes the iACTIF prehabilitation program, intended for people diagnosed with cancer and waiting to undergo surgery.

In the transition period between the diagnosis and surgery, prehabilitation allows people living with the disease to optimize their physical and psychological health.

The goal is to reduce the severity of either the symptoms related to the diagnosis or surgical complications, among other things.

The scientific literature in this regard is crystal clear.

People with cancer are at high risk of physical deconditioning, of having symptoms of anxiety and depression and of having pain related to the disease and treatments.

A program unique in Canada

According to the research team, the iACTIF prehabilitation program, developed and tested with Fondation Virage in a hospital setting, is unique in that it is offered in a virtual group format.

Most of the prehabilitation interventions in Canada and elsewhere in the world are offered as one-on-one sessions on site at clinics.

Alexia Piché, a student in the Master of Physical Activity Science program at Université de Montréal and a member of Isabelle Doré’s team, wanted to ensure the promotion of social interaction and encourage a sense of belonging within the group of participants.

Through three 90-minute sessions a week supervised by a kinesiologist, the patients were asked to do a series of physical activities at home for 60 minutes via the Zoom communication platform.

The next 30 minutes were reserved for educational presentations given on Zoom by kinesiologists, psychologists or nutritionists. The topics discussed—sleep, psychosocial support or nutrition—allowed the group to be better prepared before their surgery.

Implemented in the reality of a hospital setting

The initial results of the research project show that it is possible to offer this type of prehabilitation program and that it is well received by participants.

Isabelle Doré and her team also observed that these same people improved their physical capacities and managed to reduce their level of stress or their anxiety and depression symptoms.

Benefits were also observed in those who were able to attend only two to five prehabilitation sessions before undergoing surgery.

Recent scientific studies serve as a reminder: the earlier a cancer patient starts being physically active, the greater the health benefits, whether it’s a significant reduction in the risk of relapse or death from cancer, for example.

The majority of the 25 people who participated in the research project maintained their healthy lifestyle after their surgery.

In general, they improved their level of physical activity. Three quarters of them began or enrolled in a rehabilitation program 12 weeks after their surgery.

Prioritizing team spirit

Developing and establishing this prehabilitation program meeting Quebecers’ needs, was not the work of Alexia Piché and Isabelle Doré alone.

They were able to count on the close collaboration of Maude Bergeron, Isabelle Brisson and Guillaume Bastarache, three kinesiologists from Fondation Virage, a community organization located at the CHUM’s Integrated Oncology Centre and dedicated to supporting people living with cancer.

And there were others involved: Lise Pettigrew, the general manager of Fondation Virage, CHUM patient partners, as well as CHUM managers, nurses, oncologists, nutritionists and psychologists.

Today, the iACTIF prehabilitation program is an integral part of the services offered by Fondation Virage. And a success like this might just inspire similar programs throughout the country.

More details about Isabelle Doré and her team's research project: “Development and assessment of the feasibility of establishing a virtual, multimodal, group-based prehabilitation program for patients awaiting cancer surgery” (November 17, 2022, presentation, available as a PDF file in French).

About the oncology awards

Awarded annually during the Quebec Oncology Program’s convention, the oncology awards aim to recognize projects whose goal is to improve health care and services for people living with cancer.

The names of all the teams who received oncology awards in 2022 were announced on November 24 during the virtual convention of the Quebec Oncology Program: “A Network Joining Forces to Fight Cancer.”

Isabelle Doré’s team and Fondation Virage Awarded by the Quebec Oncology Program