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Exercise Boosts Effectiveness of Chemo

Sep 19, 2014 03:47 PM EDT

Researchers have found that exercise isn't just good for your body, it's good for your chemotherapy too. That's according to a new study that has found evidence supporting the theory that chemotherapy combined with exercise shrinks tumors faster than just chemo alone.

The study, published in the journal Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, details how exercise during chemotherapy was found to not only boost the tumor shrinking capabilities of chemotherapy, but did not help protect heart cells from the damaging effects of doxorubicin - a common chemotherapy drug.

Past research has already shown that intense exercise prior to therapy can help prevent the risk of heart failure in patients taking the drug, and Joseph Libonati of Penn's School of Nursing and his colleagues were initially trying to find more supportive evidence of this working even during treatment.

Instead, they found something even more exciting.

In a two-week trial, the research team examined the hearts of four different groups of mice - all of which had been given an injection of cancer cells into the scruff of their necks. Two of these groups received doxorubicin treatment while two received placebos. One placebo and one treatment group also were put on exercise regimens, walking 45 minutes for five days a week on treadmills.

At the end of the trial, the researchers were surprised to find that the exercise did not help prevent heart strain caused by the drug.

"It didn't worsen it, it didn't help it," Libonati said in a statement. "But the tumor data - I find them actually amazing."

The mice who received both the real therapy and exercise were found to have significantly and consistently smaller tumors than the placebo and non-exercising groups.

This is big news, Libonati claims, because it could help people avoid potential side-effects of high dosage, like the aforementioned heart failure.

"If exercise helps in this way, you could potentially use a smaller dose of the drug (with intense exercise) and get fewer side effects," he said.

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