Researchers are testing an intriguing new weapon for patients battling cancer: rigorous physical exercise.
Studies and clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City aim to find out if a regimen of exercise training can inhibit or delay the spread of a malignant tumor and help prevent its recurrence. An early-stage trial currently under way involves 72 women with stage 4 breast cancer, which has spread to other parts of the body and is generally considered incurable.
Scientists say the research, part of an emerging field known as exercise oncology, could take years to prove a link between exercise and cancer. If successful, they hope exercise someday will become a standard of care in cancer treatment, along with conventional therapies such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Previous studies have found, for example, that breast-cancer patients who exercise have a lower risk of recurrence and are less likely to die from their disease than women who are inactive. But the findings, from observational studies, aren’t definitive, experts say. Exercise also has been shown to help some cancer patients tolerate the debilitating effects of chemo and radiation treatments.
The new exploration at Sloan Kettering comes with randomized, manipulated studies-considered the gold common for scientific inquiry-looking for to prove that workout can transform the biology of a tumor, inhibiting or slowing its growth thereby, says Lee Jones, who’s top rated the Sloan Kettering work.
Dr. Jones, a fitness scientist with Sloan Kettering’s Cardiology Service, whose considerable research has focused on oncology, says studies with animals advise the idea of reversing tumor growth with exercise may be possible. A scholarly study he co-authored, published this past year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, discovered that “exercise statistically drastically reduced tumor growth” in mice with breast cancer.
Some doctors caution that some cancer sufferers can’t tolerate average exercise even. Chemo drugs may take much toll on your body, for example, and cancers that metastasize to the chance could possibly be raised by the bones of fractures, says Anne McTiernan, a health care provider and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.