Toronto | Exercise may be as effective as drugs in treating patients with prostate cancer even in advanced stages of the disease, researchers claim. Typical patients with metastases often become sedentary.
It is thought that this affects cancer progression, said Fred Saad from University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) in Canada. Saad is leading the first international study which aims to demonstrate that exercise literally extends the life of patients with metastatic prostate cancer.
Normally, patients at this stage have a life expectancy of two to three years. We want to reduce mortality by at least 22 per cent, which represents about six months of longer survival. This is the equivalent benefit of a new drug, he said. Exercise could therefore supplement available treatments, inexpensively, he added.
Researchers will study exercise as if it were a drug added to standard treatments. All patients will be treated within the latest scientific knowledge for this type of cancer. They will continue to follow their therapies and take their medications. But half of the patients will receive psychosocial support with general recommendations on physical exercise.
The other half will also follow a high intensity exercise programme. The exercise medicine designed by Robert Newton from Edith Cowan University in Australia has a specific strength and cardiovascular training programme for patients in the exercise group.
They will have an hour of aerobic and resistance training three times a week. An exercise specialist will supervise them for the first 12 months, and then they will continue without direct supervision, said Newton. We will evaluate quality of life, appetite, and treatment tolerance in relation to their improved physical condition, he said. Blood samples and muscle biopsies will help scientists better understand the benefits of exercise.
People with cancer develop all sorts of complications related to metastases, such as fractures or severe pain. It is hoped that exercise will strengthen muscles and bones, said Saad.
The hypothesis is that exercise has a direct impact on cancer progression in addition to helping patients better tolerate therapy, ultimately allowing them to live longer, researchers said.