Exercise can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients
Constant fatigue, severe exhaustion, concentration problems and hardly any more power: many cancer patients suffer from these severe symptoms that make everyday life barely bearable. Therefore, most tend to rest to protect the body. But with cancer in particular, it can obviously be very effective to do sports anyway. This is shown by a new study with mice, of which Danish researchers report in the trade magazine “Cell Metabolism”. According to this, exercise can stop the growth of tumor cells and strengthen immune cells.
Complaints and side effects of the therapy can severely restrict everyday life
Cancer patients are often limited in their quality of life. Anxiety, depression and side effects of the therapy such as severe tiredness, nausea, pain, exhaustion and exhaustion can make everyday life considerably more difficult. Understandably, many people feel the need for rest. But health experts believe that exercise during cancer therapy increases well-being and can help to manage the symptoms. "In this way, patients can be brought out of their passivity and stiffness in shock," explains Professor Martin Halle from the Technical University of Munich in an interview with the news agency "dpa".
A special sports program begins after the diagnosis has been made
However, this does not mean that the patients should do high-performance sports, said the expert. Instead, it is about individually tailored sports therapy, which begins as soon as the diagnosis is made and not only after the treatment as part of medical rehabilitation (rehab). “The patient should know that he has his illness in hand and is responsible for ensuring that his therapy works optimally,” Halle explains. In the Klinikum rechts der Isar, this form of sports therapy is already being used for the three most common types of cancer (lungs, intestines and prostate), as is psychological care and nutritional care for cancer patients, according to the “dpa” report.
The Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) now wants to expand its “Sport as Therapy” offer so that patients nationwide can also benefit from the advantages of the special exercise program. "Inactivity is itself a risk factor for cancer," says Professor Dr. Martin Halle from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) according to a message from the TK.
"The sooner we start to convert this inactivity into an activity, the better the tumor patient's prognosis," the sports medicine doctor continued. For this purpose, the doctor will prepare a treatment plan consisting of several modules during the first hospital stay, which will include provides healthy nutrition, psycho-oncological care and sports therapy. The training program is put together individually - depending on the therapy, symptoms and subjective condition of the patient. “It's about the patient getting used to doing something for himself right from the start. This is good for your own psyche. And the movement promotes the tolerance of chemotherapy, ”Halle continued.
Animals run several kilometers a day in the hamster wheel
Several studies have already shown that sport can have a positive effect on cancer. Experts suspect that this could be due, among other things, to changes in physical condition, hormone release and the immune system during physical activity. "It is known that there are connections, but the mechanistic processes behind them are usually not yet well understood," explains Adelheid Cerwenka from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, further to the news agency.
A new study in mice could now provide information that could again confirm the positive effects of exercise in cancer. Among other things, Danish researchers had animals with skin, lung and liver cancer regularly run in a hamster wheel and recognized that their tumors shrank by about half in comparison to those of non-active species. Line Pedersen and Pernille Hojman from the University of Copenhagen report in “Cell Metabolism” magazine that the animals had traveled an average of four kilometers a day. Accordingly, the adrenaline released during intensive movement apparently mobilizes the cancer-fighting immune cells and causes them to reach the places in the body that are affected by the tumor via the blood. In the opinion of local experts, the new result could probably be transferable to humans in view of the previous findings. "This result takes the field a lot," says Wilhelm Bloch from the German Sport University Cologne.
More natural killer cells in the tumors of the active mice
As the researchers report, the training had little impact on the weight of the mice. However, it was shown that the genes that played an important role in the immune system and inflammatory processes were more active in the trained mice. The scientists therefore next investigated how high the proportion of immune cells in the respective tumors was. They recognized that the mice that had been running regularly on the bike had significantly more so-called “NK cells” (natural killer cells) than their inactive counterparts. These cells belong to the white blood cells and represent an important component of the immune system in that they are able to recognize and kill tumor cells and virus-infected cells. The killer cells act as a kind of "detonator" because they release certain signal substances and thereby stimulate other immune system defense cells.
Signal molecule acts as an intermediary
The researchers further observed that e.g. by injecting adrenaline in the mice, a similar effect on the number of "NK cells" could be achieved as by exercise. The tumor was also reduced in size after animals in the absence of phagocytes had been deliberately inserted into the cancerous tissue. However, if the mode of action of the hormone adrenaline was inhibited, the tumor did not shrink despite regular walking. "It was known that the penetration of NK cells can control and regulate the size of tumors, but no one has yet examined how movement affects this system," says Hojman, a researcher in Cell Metabolism magazine. According to the scientists, the signaling molecule interleukin-6 (IL-6) takes on the role of the mediator. Because this is released by the muscles with increased physical activity and ensures that the immune cells reach the tumor with the bloodstream. The result of the new study therefore suggests that it can make sense to exercise intensively in the case of cancer, says Hojman. (No)