Edith Cowan University researchers study link between exercise and cancer


Nicolas Hart is investigating if exercise could slow the growth of cancerous tumours.
Nicolas Hart is investigating if exercise could slow the growth of cancerous tumours.

In a world-first study conducted at the Joondalup campus, 20 men with advanced prostate cancer that has spread to their spine will be prescribed an exercise program to target and stimulate the muscle surrounding the skeletal tumour sites.

Lead researcher Nicolas Hart said previous studies had shown that targeted exercise was effective in changing tumour biology and suppressing tumour growth in animals but had not been trialled in humans.

“We know that exercise is hugely beneficial for people suffering from cancer in many different ways, but this will be the first time we have tried to target the exercise directly to the part of the body where tumours are growing in bone,” he said.

“As well as the potential to interfere with tumour growth, it is expected that the targeted exercise will also help alleviate bone pain as well as preserve muscle and bone mass in patients.”

Dr Hart said it was only recently considered safe for patients whose cancer had spread to their bones to exercise, after a program was developed by ECU Health and Wellness Institute researchers Professor Robert Newton and Professor Daniel Galvão.

“The focus of their program was to modify the exercise prescription… to minimise physical loading of bones containing sclerotic lesions, which was found to be very safe and highly effective,” he said.

“However, we are now expanding on this success by including targeted exercise into the program with the expectation that we will be able to reduce tumour growth and improve patient outcomes.”

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has committed $15,000 towards the study.

“This is a world-first trial in humans, which may have considerable implications to other types of advanced cancers in prolonging survival while maintaining quality of life and physical function,” ESSA president Nathan Reeves said.