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Exercise may become anti-cancer therapy in future


Toronto: A first-ever international clinical trial evaluating the effect of intense physical exercise to improve survival of men with advanced prostate cancer is now underway.

Dr Fred Saad, urologist-oncologist and researcher at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) believes that physical exercise has a direct effect on cancer — as effective as drugs — for treating patients with prostate cancer even in advanced stages of the disease.

“Typical patients with metastases often become sedentary. It is thought that this affects cancer progression,” he said.

Together with Robert Newton, professor at the Edith Cowan University Exercise Medicine Research Institute in Australia, Dr 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 percent, which represents about six months of longer survival. This is the equivalent benefit of a new drug. Exercise could therefore supplement available treatments, inexpensively,” said Dr Saad.

The study has already started in Ireland and Australia. In the coming weeks, some 60 hospitals across the world will begin recruiting patients. In total, nearly 900 men with advanced prostate cancer will participate.

“We 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,” he explained.

The team has designed 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. They will be evaluated for quality of life, appetite, and treatment tolerance in relation to their improved physical condition.

The hypothesis is that exercise has a direct impact on cancer progression in addition to helping patients better tolerate therapy.

Dr Saad is set to present an overview of the Phase 3 clinical trial at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago from June 3-7.

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