Chalk up another health benefit of working out: New research has found cancer survivors who exercise for several weeks after ending chemotherapy appear to rearm their immune systems to become more effective, potentially fending off future recurrences.
The study, by a research team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, found cancer-fighting T cells become more responsive in exercising cancer survivors weeks after chemo ends.
The findings, presented at a scientific meeting in Colorado this week, may help explain why exercise significantly reduces the chances of secondary cancers in survivors as well as the odds of cancer altogether in people who have never had the disease.SPECIAL: This Small Group of Doctors are Quietly Curing Cancer — Read More.
"There's a litany of positive benefits from exercise," said researcher Laura Bilek, of the University of Nebraska. "If exercise indeed strengthens the immune system and potentially improves cancer surveillance, it's one more thing we should educate patients about as a reason they should schedule regular activity throughout their day and make it a priority in their lives."
She added that this study highlights the importance of exercise for everyone as a way to boost the ability of the immune system to seek out and destroy budding cancers.
The findings are based researchers’ analysis of killer T cells in the blood of 16 cancer survivors before and after a 12-week exercise program. They found that a significant portion of these immune cells converted from what is known scientifically as a “senescent form,” which isn't as effective at combating disease, to a “naïve form,” which makes them more ready and able to fight cancer and infections.
Bilek noted the findings build on previous research that has found exercise can reduce the risk of several types of cancers, can often improve prognosis in cancer patients, and can reduce the risk of recurrence and secondary cancers. However, the mechanism behind these phenomena has been unknown.SPECIAL: This Small Group of Doctors are Quietly Curing Cancer — Read More.