Exercise scientist and Director of the Cardio-Oncology Research Program (CORP) at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dr. Lee Jones, is attempting to figure out if prescribing individualized exercise regimens for cancer patients can improve recovery from treatment and lower the chance of recurrence.
His team of researchers is also working to determine if exercise can be an effective treatment or preventative measure against cancer itself, including rare cancers like mesothelioma that affects the protective lining around the lungs, abdomen, and heart.
Dr. Jones’ theory suggests that exercising can help regulate microenvironments in tissue throughout the body where cancer cells might be dormant. Keeping up with aerobic exercise can prevent those cells from becoming malignant and spreading to vital organs or through the lymphatic system, which helps conventional treatments function more effectively.
Exercise and Treating Cancer
The thought of prescribing structured exercises to cancer patients has for a long time been largely overlooked. Most patients with aggressive cancers, like mesothelioma, that require advanced levels of treatment are told to rest and avoid strenuous activities like exercise.
However, with more people being diagnosed at earlier stages of their disease through advanced screening and diagnostic methods, patients are often able to retain more autonomy and physical ability even after surgery and intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiation with the help of regular exercise.
The researchers at MSK suggest that it is particularly important for those patients who have undergone treatment for their disease at an early stage to keep up with exercising, which can help strengthen their cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Keeping these processes strong and healthy after being subjected to the strain caused by cancer treatments can help patients significantly outlive their expected prognosis.
Studying the Effects of Exercise
Dr. Jones and his team are approaching the treatment of cancer with exercise the same way researchers approach the development of new drugs. Additionally, he is particularly interested in exercise for advanced cancer patients and how it can help slow metastasis.
“The drug we’re testing just happens to be called exercise, but I believe that the way we test it should be no different. In our program, we are trying to adopt, whenever possible, the same type of sequential study steps with similar types of endpoints that oncologists and cancer biologists use in the development of new targeted therapies.”
With more studies and randomized clinical trials slated to commence at MSK, it is likely that soon we will see a great deal of new data published on how exercise can improve survival for cancer patients, including those diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. These studies will give researchers more insight into the effects that exercise has on cancer cells and the biological mechanisms that control them.