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Exercise Improves Chemotherapy Treatment

Update Date: Sep 19, 2014 06:37 PM EDT

Exercise boosts the effectiveness of chemotherapy, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said the latest findings suggest that exercise could help cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy combat deadly tumors.

A new mouse study revealed that combing exercise with chemotherapy shrunk tumors more than chemotherapy alone in rodents with melanoma.

Previous studies show that physical activity provides physical and psychological benefits in cancer patients. For example, patients taking the common cancer drug doxorubicin, which increases the risk of heart cell damage and heart failure, are significantly less likely to experience the cardiac-related side effects if they exercise.

"The immediate concern for these patients is, of course, the cancer, and they'll do whatever it takes to get rid of it," senior researcher Joseph Libonati, an associate professor in the School of Nursing and director of the Laboratory of Innovative and Translational Nursing Research said in a news release. "But then when you get over that hump you have to deal with the long-term elevated risk of cardiovascular disease."

While the latest study showed that exercise did not protect the heart from doxorubicin, physical activity led to significantly smaller tumors after two weeks in exercising mice.

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

"People don't take a drug and then sit down all day," Libonati concluded. "Something as simple as moving affects how drugs are metabolized. We're only just beginning to understand the complexities."

The findings are published in the American Journal of Physiology.

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