Well-known exercise has many benefits, but new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has revealed how critically important it can be – even for people with advanced cancer.
Previous work from ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute has shown that men with advanced prostate cancer can change their body’s chemical environment in six months of exercise training to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
The team saw increased levels of proteins called ‘myokines’ which are produced by skeletal muscles and can inhibit tumor growth and help actively fight cancer cells by stimulating a range of anti-cancer processes in the body.
But a new EMRI study shows that a single exercise can further suppress cancer by increasing myokines.
Importantly, this exercise-induced drug occurs in patients with incurable, advanced cancer where the disease has well and truly taken hold and patients have received extensive treatment over several years.
Nine patients with late-stage prostate cancer performed 34 minutes of high-intensity exercise on a steady cycle, with blood serum collected immediately before and after, and then again 30 minutes post-workout.
The team found that serum obtained immediately after this “dose” of exercise contained high levels of anti-cancer myokines that inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro by about 17 percent.
Serum myokine levels and tumor suppression returned to baseline after 30 minutes.
EMRI researcher and study supervisor Professor Rob Newton said the exercise was a breakthrough moment in oncology.
The findings from our work are particularly exciting because we report for the first time that men with advanced prostate cancer are able to produce acute elevations in anti-cancer molecules called myokines in response to a single bout of vigorous exercise.
This is helping us understand why cancer patients who exercise show slower disease progression and live longer.
These patients are palliative, so there is no treatment and they will eventually die – however, there is evidence that exercise will extend survival and the myokine levels explored in our recent paper are a key mechanism.”
Professor Rob Newton, EMRI researcher and study supervisor
Professor Newton said there was still more research to be done, but the results of the study could help to immediately shape the advice given to cancer patients.
“The optimal dose of exercise is not yet known, but it can be 20-plus minutes every day and should include resistance training to increase muscle mass, increase the size and capacity of internal pharmacology, and stimulate myokine production.” he said.
“This study provides strong evidence to recommend that patients with prostate cancer, and probably anyone with any type of cancer, should exercise several days, if not every day, to maintain a chemical environment in their body that suppresses the proliferation of cancer cells.”
‘Acute effect of high-intensity interval aerobic exercise on serum myokine levels and tumor-suppressive effect in trained patients with advanced prostate cancer’ was published. Prostate cancer and prostatic diseases.
Kim, J.S., et al. (2022) Acute effects of high-intensity interval aerobic exercise on serum myokine levels and tumor-suppressive effects in trained patients with advanced prostate cancer. Prostate cancer and prostatic diseases. doi.org/10.1038/s41391-022-00624-4.