Exercise can stall cancer growth by boosting the immune system, says study

A recent study suggests that people with cancer who exercise daily have a better prognosis than inactive patients.
exercise and cancer
Exercise is THE key to a better, healthier life. Image courtesy: Unsplash
ANI Published: 27 Oct 2020, 18:00 pm IST
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When it comes to our health, cancer is something that every single person dreads. And you don’t need points for guessing why. Which is why taking preventive measures and leading a healthy life is important. 

Exercise has proven to be a blessing when it comes to maintaining good physical and mental health. And while we cannot stress enough on the importance of being physically active, a new study has shown that exercise can also stall the growth of cancer! 

Exercise improves the metabolism which can attack cancer cells in the body 

A study recently published in the journal eLife found a likely explanation of why exercise can help slow down cancer growth in mice. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that physical activity changes the metabolism of the immune system’s cytotoxic T cells and thereby improves their ability to attack cancer cells.

Randall Johnson, the corresponding author of the study says: “The biology behind the positive effects of exercise can provide new insights into how the body maintains the health and help us design and improve treatments against cancer.”

Also, read: Here’s how you can support a loved one who is battling cancer

Prior research has shown that physical activity can prevent the health condition as well as improve the prognosis of several diseases including various forms of cancer. Exactly how exercise exerts its protective effects against cancer is, however, still unknown—especially when it comes to the biological mechanisms. One plausible explanation is that physical activity activates the immune system and thereby bolsters the body’s ability to prevent and inhibit cancer growth.

how to prevent cancer
Cancer can be quite unpredictable and uncertain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
The study was based on hypothesis from previous studies

In the recent study, the researchers expanded on the hypothesis from previous studies by examining how the immune system’s cytotoxic T cells, that is the white blood cells specialized in killing cancer cells, respond to exercise.

They divided mice with cancer into two groups and let one group exercise regularly in a spinning wheel while the other remained inactive. The result showed that cancer growth slowed and mortality decreased in the trained animals compared with the untrained.

The importance of cytotoxic T cells was also examined

The researchers also examined the importance of cytotoxic T cells by injecting antibodies that remove these T cells in both trained and untrained mice. 

The antibodies knocked out the positive effect of exercise on both cancer growth and survival, which according to the researchers demonstrates the significance of these T cells for exercise-induced suppression of cancer.

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The researchers also transferred cytotoxic T cells from trained to untrained mice with tumours, which improved their prospects compared with those who got cells from untrained animals.

To examine how exercise influenced cancer growth, the researchers isolated T cells, blood and tissue samples after training sessions and measured levels of common metabolites that are produced in muscle and excreted into plasma at high levels during exertion. 

Some of these metabolites, such as lactate, altered the metabolism of the T cells and increased their activity. The researchers also found that T cells isolated from an exercised animal showed an altered metabolism compared to T cells from resting animals.

best exercises for heart
Exercising can do your body a world of good. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Also, read: Moderate exercise can help high-risk breast cancer patients heal: Study

The researchers also examined these metabolites in humans as well

In addition, the researchers examined how these metabolites change in response to exercise in humans. They took blood samples from eight healthy men after 30 minutes of intense cycling and noticed that the same training-induced metabolites were released in humans.

Helene Rundqvist, the study’s first author says: “Our research shows that exercise affects the production of several molecules and metabolites that activate cancer-fighting immune cells and thereby inhibit cancer growth. We hope these results may contribute to a deeper understanding of how our lifestyle impacts our immune system and inform the development of new immunotherapies against cancer.”

Now when the researchers have found a probable link between exercise and cancer growth, it’s time to gear up and live a healthy lifestyle where you include at least 30 minutes of exercise daily!

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