Exercise boosts the effectiveness of anticancer drugs and improves survival, a study suggests.
Scientists have found that proteins released by the body to help repair muscles worn down by exercise also attack cancer cells.
After proving their theory in mice, they analyzed human trial data from 75 pancreatic cancer patients.
One group was asked to do an hour of strength training and 90 minutes of aerobic exercise each week before undergoing surgery to remove the tumor.
Those who participated in the six-week training program had an overall five-year survival rate that was 50 percent higher than those who did not participate in the program.
Scientists have long touted the benefits of exercise in lowering people’s risk of developing cancer, but this study suggests it could also help people with the disease.
Scientists find that exercised pancreatic cancer patients and mice are better able to fight off the disease (stock image)
Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine found that exercising 30 minutes five times a week in mice with cancer reduced the rate of cancer formation by 50 percent.
Another test in which mice ran on a treadmill regularly for three weeks reduced tumor weight by 25 percent.
It was found that inducing adrenaline through exercise stimulates the body to produce more of a protein called interleukin-15.
This in turn increases the ability of CD8 T cells, a type of immune system cell that can attack and kill pancreatic cancer cells.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest diseases, killing approximately 95% of those infected.
Joan Crawford, Patrick Swayze and Luciano Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.
It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the UK – around 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, compared to around 55,000 in the US.
what is the reason?
It is caused by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland in the digestive system.
Who is at the highest risk?
Most cases (90%) occur in people over the age of 55.
About half of the new cases occurred in people aged 75 or older.
One in 10 cases is attributed to heredity.
Other possible causes include age, smoking, and other health conditions, including diabetes.
Why is it so deadly?
There is no screening method for pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer usually doesn’t show symptoms in the early stages, when it’s more manageable.
Patients tend to start showing visible signs – jaundice and abdominal pain – around stage 3 or 4, by which time it may have spread to other organs.
What are the treatment options?
The only effective treatment is to remove the pancreas.
This is largely ineffective for those whose cancer has spread to other organs.
In these cases, palliative care is recommended to relieve their end-of-life pain.
The researchers then analyzed the results of a 2017 human clinical trial.
These patients were asked to perform 30-minute strengthening exercises twice a week, which might include resistance bands, weight training, or yoga.
They were also told to walk briskly for 30 minutes at least three times a week.
They followed the regime for six weeks before undergoing surgery to remove the cancer.
Regular blood tests showed that patients who exercised had more CD8 T cells.
By looking at health records, the researchers found that these patients also had a 50 percent improvement in overall survival after five years.
Researchers at New York University say their findings are the first to show that even a small amount of exercise can help treat pancreatic cancer.
They say it’s critical for pancreatic cancer because its treatment options are so limited.
Scientists hope the discovery will eventually lead to better treatments for people living with the disease, which is often caught too late and leaves with few options.
“Our findings show for the first time how aerobic exercise affects the immune microenvironment within pancreatic tumors,” said Dr. Emma Kurz, an oncologist and lead author of the study.
“This work helps reveal that activation of IL-15 signaling in pancreatic cancer may be an important future therapeutic approach.”
To further test this theory, the scientists also tested whether exercise could enhance traditional cancer treatments in mice.
For its part, the immunotherapy was found to increase the production of cancer-killing cells by 66 percent.
However, when the mice exercised, the production of cancer cells increased by 175%.
The results suggest that exercise may have potential implications for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, says Dafna Bar-Sagi, a professor of biochemistry at NYU Grossman and another author of the study.
“Even mild exercise can profoundly alter the tumor’s environment, suggesting the potential of this approach in treating patients with a devastating disease burden and few options,” she said.
The researchers say they are now planning another clinical trial to explore the effects of exercise on pancreatic cancer patients.
They published their findings in the journal Cancer Cell.
Pancreatic cancer is extremely deadly, in part because of how difficult it is to detect and treat.
About 95% of those infected die from the disease.
About 9,000 Britons die from pancreatic cancer every year. In the US, the number is around 50,000.
The best chance of curing cancer is surgical removal of the cancerous tissue, but only 10 percent of people have this option because the tumor is usually only detected when it has already begun to spread to other parts of the body.
The NHS advice states that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.
They should also do muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.