The Exercise Clinic, a company specialising in exercise for cancer patients, has moved into the Innovation Gateway at The London Cancer Hub.
The Innovation Gateway is a new incubator and collaboration space for innovative life-science companies whose work is relevant to cancer.
Nestled between The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the gateway offers vibrant opportunities for collaboration in cancer research and treatment.
Established five years ago by Emily Curtis and Chris Cottrell, The Exercise Clinic is developing a ground-breaking approach to physical therapy that will help cancer patients during treatment and in their recovery.
Chris Cottrell, co-founder, is clear about what inspired him to get involved in a structured exercise programme during cancer treatment. “For me, there was a big knock-on effect from improving my fitness by boosting my wellbeing and mental health, which was so important during tough treatments. Exercise has changed my life and probably helped save my life.”
The Exercise Clinic is ambitious about its future. Having worked with people diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated at The Royal Marsden in Sutton, it has plans to roll out its programme to other hospitals across the UK. “We work collaboratively with clinicians and physiotherapists to support patients. It’s all done virtually so that patients can receive exercise support at home regardless of where they are located,”” Emily Curtis, co-founder, explains.
The founders say they will benefit from being closely located to experts in The Royal Marsden and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, key partners in developing their programmes. They have received funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through The Royal Marsden’s Innovation Den and, more recently, through Simplyhealth, for an innovative prostate exercise pilot project called THRIVE. “We really value the productive nature of actually working together. Whether that’s sharing ideas over the desk at the Innovation Gateway, or meeting physios, oncologists and experts a few minutes’ walk away.”
So how did the idea for developing exercise plans to help cancer patients first spark? “I’d not really exercised much until 2013. My consultant oncologist referred me to a structured exercise programme.” Chris explains. “I quickly saw benefit from exercising under Emily’s guidance and it has helped me learn to live well with advanced prostate cancer. It planted the seed for what we could do for others.”
Chris began giving talks at hospitals to encourage other patients to take up exercise to benefit them too. The impact of these talks led to a collaboration with The Royal Marsden. “It’s been amazing to have their expertise and support as we developed the programme and our app.”
The Exercise Clinic’s app means they can collate data on the benefits of exercising and accurately keep an eye on the progress of patients. “This information really helps us when we see groups of patients for their exercise sessions.” It has built a community for people with prostate cancer which motivates them to exercise.
Emily and Chris set out to make safe exercise as accessible as possible to all. They knew it could be daunting, as patients might not know certain moves or may never have been to a gym. It’s worked – the level of participation is high, and The Exercise Clinic is planning to develop an innovative dashboard that tracks and displays each individual’s progress so they can better tailor programmes. “Our app launched 18 months ago, it’s very simple and easy to engage with,” Emily added. “Knowing the long-term impacts of exercise, as well as each individual’s medical history, means we can make sure we get the prescription of exercise right.”
The Exercise Clinic moved into the Innovation Gateway in March. The Innovation Gateway offers laboratory, office and collaboration facilities at the heart of The London Cancer Hub – which is becoming the world’s leading district for cancer research, treatment and commercial enterprise. The London Cancer Hub is already home to the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, which together are rated among the top four centres for cancer research and treatment worldwide.