In recent published study, researchers examined the effect of aerobic exercise on breast tumors in mice to see if it had a direct effect on the tumor itself. The reason for this is that tumors can become resistant to traditional treatment because of impaired or restricted blood flow. This is problematic since the blood is our transportation system. To put it another way, then blood vessels can be considered railroad tracks in this context, and when the train (blood) does not arrive to the station to deliver the medicine, the tumor does not receive treatment.
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There have been made various attempts to improve circulation around these areas where blood is prohibited. One of the many positive effects of exercise is improved blood flow and function of blood, or transportation if you prefer. This study found that exercise both improved function of the blood vessels around the tumor areas, and led to formation of several new blood vessels. Compared with a control group that also received chemotherapy, but did not exercise, they found a significantly better effect on the tumors. The researchers behind this study are convinced that the big difference in the effectiveness of chemotherapy because the exercise led to better blood circulation around the tumors. For all statisticians out there, exercise led to 60% higher density of blood vessels around tumors. In addition, chemotherapy along with exercise resulted in a 1.5 times higher death of cancer cells compared to the control group (a positive cell death within this context).
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After these promising results, they reiterated the experiment with another drug, but in addition, they had a separate group that ONLY received exercise as treatment. Most effective treatment was the combination of both training and chemotherapy. But an interesting fact here is that they found a positive effect, and no statistical difference between the exercise group and the group that received only drug through chemotherapy.
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All in all, this is promising news for cancer patients worldwide. Exercise is already shown to be positive for fitness level, quality of life and reduced fatigue in cancer patients. Now it turns out that exercise also may help improve the cancer itself.
Henning Ofstad Ness. PhD candidate at CERG