Link between exercise and lung cancer prevention

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A Brock University research team has found a link between exercise and the delay, or even prevention, of some types of lung cancer. The study which used lung cancer cells and a type of serum derived from blood, aimed at finding out whether or not there is a stronger correlation between exercise and cancer.

Exercise has often been linked to lowering the risk of developing cancer. The National Cancer Institute states that exercise helps in lowering hormone levels, like insulin and estrogen, preventing obesity which helps in the prevention of insulin resistance, reducing inflammation, and improving immune system functions. For example, physically active people are 25 per cent less likely to develop colon cancer, and physically active women are less likely to develop breast or endometrial cancer. The connection between exercise and fighting cancer is evident.

This study in particular goes into the molecular level of exercise and attempts to determine if, and why, exercise can be used as a method of lung cancer prevention specifically.

Researchers used non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells within the study — a type of lung cancer that accounts for 85 per cent of diagnosed lung cancers cases; not only is this type of lung cancer aggressive, but the cells are able to survive at much higher rates than other types of lung cancer cells and multiply twice as fast.

Additionally, the study was conducted with blood plasma, “the clear, yellowish liquid part of blood that contains all blood components except blood cells.” This ‘serum’ was taken from the blood samples of a group of young men both before and after they exercised.

After obtaining the two types of serum, the research team then exposed the NSCLC cells to the pre-exercise serum, then the post-exercise serum to see if there was any difference between the two. In doing so, they found that the cancer cells that were exposed to the post-exercise serum had a reduced growth overall and their survival rate greatly decreased compared to that of the pre-exercise serum.

Evangelia Litsa Tsiani, the Associate Professor of Health Sciences and research team co-ordinator, stated in the media release that “the study supports the idea that exercise is good for us and may contribute to the reduction of the risk of cancer.”

The benefits of the post-exercise serum when it came to lung cancer treatment and prevention are numerous. The serum stopped the multiplication and survival of cancer cells while enhancing apoptosis (the process of pre-programmed cell death) blocked Akt, the signal pathway that would have created the multiplication of more cancer cells, and also blocked the activation of proteins in some cancer cells.

What’s especially important about this research is how the post-exercise serum compares to traditional treatments, like chemotherapy drugs, on a molecular level.

While the discovery is significant, researchers still are not entirely sure what part of the post-exercise serum was what caused the changes in NSCLC cells. Tsiani states that the next step in the research will be in identifying what it is, whether hormones, proteins, or something else entirely.

Additionally, exercise can also be used as additional treatment for lung cancer patients as a way of helping create endurance and physical strength.

The research team’s findings can be found in the research paper “Inhibition of Human Lung Cancer Cell Proliferation and Survival by Post-Exercise Serum is Associated with the Inhibition of Akt, mTOR, p70 S6K, and Erk1/2”, by graduate student Nigel Kurgan, with additional writers listed as Panagiota Klentrou, the Professor of Kinesiology, and graduate students Evelyn Tsakiridis, Rozalia Kouvelioti, and Jessy Moore. The paper was published in the academic journal “Cancers” earlier this year.

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