10 June 2019

A simple test of walking speed is a key prognostic indicator for elderly patients with haematological cancers, researchers have reported.

A study involving 448 patients over the age of 75 at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, USA, has found a close link between walking speed and outcomes.

According to the study, reported in the journal Blood, every reduction in speed of 0.1 metre per second was linked to a 22% increased risk of dying and a 33% increase in risk of unplanned hospital admission. The researchers found the link was strongest for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The commonly used ‘gait speed’ test involves timing patients walking at normal speed for four metres. Even after taking into account other factors which influence survival, gait speed remained a useful prognostic indicator of mortality.

Study leader Dr Jane Driver, of the Dana-Farber Older Adult Hematologic Malignancy Program, said: “There is an unmet need for brief screening tests for frailty that can easily fit into clinic workflow and predict important clinical outcomes. This test can be done in less than a minute and takes no longer than measuring blood pressure or other vital signs.

“Based on our findings, it is as good as other commonly used methods which take considerably more time and resources and may not be practical for many oncology clinics."

Fellow researcher Dr Gregory Abel said: “Our study reveals that the current standard of care for functional assessment in oncology - performance status - is not sufficient for elders with blood cancers. Gait speed appears to be much better at differentiating those patients at highest risk for poor outcomes.”

Source: Liu, M.A., DuMontier, C., Murillo, A., Hshieh, T., Bean, J.F., Soiffer, R.J., Stone, R.M., Abel, G.A., Driver, J.A. (2019) “Gait speed, grip strength and clinical outcomes in older patients with hematologic malignancies”, Blood, available from doi: 10.1182/blood.2019000758


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