Spring 2020

The power of play

Sam (left) was one of the patients whose nurse practitioner took part in Casey Hooke’s study of increased activity among kids during and after cancer treatment.
Scott Streble

Does physical activity help children with cancer? It’s a question that Casey Hooke, associate professor in the School of Nursing and an advanced practice nurse in pediatric oncology, is passionate about answering. 

“Data show that adults who are active during cancer treatment have a higher survival rate,” says Hooke, ’81 M.S., ’09 Ph.D. “We don’t know about this in children yet. Plus, these kids are going through treatment during critical periods in their development.”

Two studies led by Hooke and funded by the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) have provided insights. 

The first, which evaluated whether yoga helped children completing cancer treatment, showed less anxiety among participants. 

The second, which examined the impact of teaching nurse practitioners how to coach patients and their families on physical activity, showed decreased fatigue among kids.

Hooke is involved in a number of other studies that are assessing the influence of physical activity in children with cancer. “We learn something from every study,” says Hooke, who is grateful for ALSF’s funding of innovative nursing research focused on childhood cancer. “More and more people in pediatric cancer treatment recognize the importance of encouraging these kids to be active.”