Control group design, contamination and drop-out in exercise oncology trials: A systematic review

Charlotte N.Steins Bisschop, Kerry S. Courneya, Miranda J. Velthuis, Evelyn M. Monninkhof, Lee W. Jones, Christine Friedenreich, Elsken Van Der Wall, Petra H.M. Peeters, Anne M. May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Purpose: Important considerations for exercise trials in cancer patients are contamination and differential drop-out among the control group members that might jeopardize the internal validity. This systematic review provides an overview of different control groups design characteristics of exercise-oncology trials and explores the association with contamination and drop-out rates. Methods: Randomized controlled exercise-oncology trials from two Cochrane reviews were included. Additionally, a computer-aided search using Medline (Pubmed), Embase and CINAHL was conducted after completion date of the Cochrane reviews. Eligible studies were classified according to three control group design characteristics: the exercise instruction given to controls before start of the study (exercise allowed or not); and the intervention the control group was offered during (any (e.g., education sessions or telephone contacts) or none) or after (any (e.g., cross-over or exercise instruction) or none) the intervention period. Contamination (yes or no) and excess drop-out rates (i.e., drop-out rate of the control group minus the dropout rate exercise group) were described according to the three design characteristics of the control group and according to the combinations of these three characteristics; so we additionally made subgroups based on combinations of type and timing of instructions received. Results: 40 exercise-oncology trials were included based on pre-specified eligibility criteria. The lowest contamination (7.1% of studies) and low drop-out rates (excess drop-out rate -4.7±9.2) were found in control groups offered an intervention after the intervention period. When control groups were offered an intervention both during and after the intervention period, contamination (0%) and excess drop-out rates (-10.0±12.8%) were even lower. Conclusions: Control groups receiving an intervention during and after the study intervention period have lower contamination and drop-out rates. The present findings can be considered when designing future exercise-oncology trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0120996
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 27 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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