The impact of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on cardiopulmonary physical fitness in gastro-oesophageal adenocarcinoma

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Operable oesophagogastric adenocarcinoma management in the UK includes three cycles of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) followed by resection. Determination of oxygen uptake at the anaerobic threshold (AT) with cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) is used to objectively measure cardiorespiratory reserve. Oxygen uptake at AT predicts perioperative risk, with low values associated with increased morbidity. Previous studies indicate NAC may have a detrimental impact on cardiorespiratory reserve.


CPET was completed by 30 patients before and after a standardised NAC protocol. The ventilatory AT was determined using the V-slope method, and the peak oxygen uptake and ventilatory equivalents for carbon dioxide measured. Median AT before and after chemotherapy was compared using a paired Student’s t-test.


Median oxygen uptake at AT pre- and post-NAC was 13.9±3.1 ml/kg/min and 11.5±2.0 ml/kg/min, respectively. The mean decrease was 2.4 ml/kg/min (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.3-3.85; p<0.001). Median peak oxygen delivery also decreased by 2.17 ml/kg/min (95% CI 1.02-3.84; p=0.001) after NAC. Ventilatory equivalents were unchanged.


This reduction in AT objectively quantifies a decrease in cardiorespiratory reserve after NAC. Patients with lower cardiorespiratory reserve have increased postoperative morbidity and mortality. Preventing this decrease in cardiorespiratory reserve during chemotherapy, or optimising the timing of surgical resection after recovery of AT, may allow perioperative risk-reduction.

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