Assessment of physical function in survivors of childhood bone and soft tissue tumours

01 December 2012
Mr Craig Gerrand, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne

The treatment for bone and soft tissue tumours leaves many children disabled to some degree. We need to understand how these children manage after treatment in order that families get the necessary support to help their child return to ‘normal’ life. The team in Newcastle is working on two devices that can be used to measure children’s physical activity and function. Our funding will enable them to pilot the use of these devices in survivors of these childhood tumours.  

Amount of grant: £47,614  |  Date of award: December 2012


It is important to understand how children and young people who have been treated for cancer manage after treatment. The treatment for bone and soft tissue tumours often involves major surgery and reconstruction of a limb, leaving many children disabled to some degree and, in some cases, unable to perform normal activities such as running or climbing stairs.

Traditionally, their physical function has been assessed through the use of clinical examination and questionnaires but this kind of assessment is limited and does not include direct measurement of how people manage at home or in the community.

The team in Newcastle has been working on two devices that can provide an objective assessment of physical function in hospital and at home. One is a wrist-mounted digital activity monitor, similar to a pedometer, and the other is a wireless motion tracking system. These devices have the potential to improve assessment of physical function by providing accurate, objective readings in and out of the hospital and thus to better understand the impact of treatment on patients’ lives.

In this 12 month feasibility study, the team will assess 20 patients, treated for a bone or soft tissue tumour in childhood, using traditional assessments followed by assessment using the new devices. This will involve wearing one of the devices for a week whilst doing normal activities. As well as testing the ‘wearability’ of the devices, this feasibility study will capture a significant volume of data that will give important insights into the future application of the technology.

About the research team

Craig Gerrand is Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. He treats children and adults with bone and soft tissue tumours in one of only five treatment centres for primary bone tumours in England.

This project capitalises on the expertise of a team already involved in research into the use of these devices in adults with arthritis. Sherron Furtado, a specialist research physiotherapist in sarcoma, will join this team to carry out the day to day work in involved in the project, under the supervision of Mr Gerrand.

What difference will this project make?

Physical disability is a significant problem for survivors of bone and soft tissue tumours. A deeper understanding of how different treatments affect physical functioning will help patients and families make better decisions about treatment. It should also help drive improvements to the treatments on offer and the provision of better services for this group of patients.

Read more: Soft tissue sarcomasInformation on cancer types | Treatments

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