There is an increasing role of high-intensity exercise training in cancer care. Evidence suggests that exercise can reduce side effects of treatment. And it has the added benefits of improving physical functioning and quality of life.
Exercise leads to an increase of adrenalin, which also triggers a patient’s natural immune response. This can alter the tumor microenvironment and lead to reduced tumor growth.
New data suggest that exercise could improve immune responses against cancer cells. It works by increasing immune cell infiltration to the tumor. And it may have an impact on disease progression.
A new clinical trial has been initiated. It will investigate if high-intensity exercise can benefit patients with lung cancer. Can adrenalin mobilize and increase the infiltration of immune cells?
Supervised and Group-Based Training 3 Times Per Week
A randomized controlled trial with 70 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Patients in the treatment arm, received a high-intensity exercise intervention.
It consisted of supervised and group-based exercise training. It included intermediate to high-intensity interval training. Patients attended training 3 times per week over 6 weeks.
All patients also received standard oncological treatments. This included checkpoint inhibitors, checkpoint inhibitors combined with chemotherapy or oncological surveillance.
Blood samples and ultrasound-guided biopsies were tested. Measurements were before, during, and after the 6-week training program. These formed the basis for immunological measurements. The primary outcome was circulating immune responses against cancer cells.
Secondary outcomes included physical activity levels, quality of life, and clinical outcomes.
Promising Immune Cell Mobilization
This is the first project to supervise and track high-intensity exercise in patients with lung cancer. It combined exercise with rigorous analyses of immune and cancer cell markers. Trail data support exercise as a tool to mobilize the immune system.
Dr. Gitte Holmen Olofsson from the National Center for Cancer Immune Therapy in Denmark, says “The increasing role of exercise training in cancer care is built on evidence that exercise can reduce side effects of treatment, improve physical functioning and quality of life.”
The efficacy of exercise therapy this need bigger trials. But the data from this trial is informative about immune cell mobilization. And it will encourage the initiation of future trials that are scaled to study efficacy.
Holmen Olofsson, G., Mikkelsen, M.K., Ragle, AM. et al. High Intensity Aerobic exercise training and Immune cell Mobilization in patients with lung cancer (HI AIM)—a randomized controlled trial. BMC Cancer 22, 246 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12885-022-09349-y