New study examines using Apple Watch to monitor side effects of radiation therapy

Apple watch resting heart rate

A new clinical feasibility trial out of Denmark aims to see if wearing an Apple Watch can help detect side effect severity in patients undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

The study wants to find out if doctors and patients benefit from the data collected via a non-invasive wearable like the Apple Watch. This includes biometric data such as heart rate and amount as well as the intensity of physical activity.

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Why conduct this study?

Since many patients undergoing radiotherapy experience side effects due to treatment, clinicians and patients want convenient, at-home options to monitor side effects and symptoms.

Health monitoring wearables, like the Apple Watch, are a potential tool in realizing this goal because the smartwatch can passively collect data using its sensors to detect both heart rate and physical activity. monitor heart rate with Apple Watch

This trial, titled Feasibility of Monitoring Patients During Radiotherapy Using Biometric Sensor Data: the OncoWatch Study 1.0, is a very small feasibility study enrolling a total of 10 participants monitored over a period of 3 months.

Study participants

Each participant must be an adult living in Denmark and in active radiotherapy treatment throughout the study duration for squamous-cell carcinoma (cancer) of the head and neck. 

Study volunteers must also be current patients at Rigshospitalet, University Hospital, Department of Oncology in Denmark.

The study provides participants with an Apple Watch which they must wear at least 12 hours per day over a 3 months period.

Clinicians monitor both adherence to that minimum hours per day as well as any changes in heart rate, including resting heart rate, and physical activity. Activity rings on Apple Watch

Outcome measures

  • Do patients experience heart rate variations and fluctuations due to treatment?
  • Are patients getting more, less, or about the same level of physical activity while in treatment? 
  • How do treatment days impact physical activity?

Learn more

The main goal of this feasibility study is to determine if patients can adhere to using an Apple Watch consistently during their radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

The watches also provide insights into the patient’s activity levels during their 3-month treatment duration and how heart rate varies during that treatment period.

To learn more about this study, check out its briefing.

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A. Beth Whittenberger
I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!


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