Aerobic exercise may help increase the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

A new study reveals that aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or cycling, can help reprogramme the immune system to limit tumour development and enhance the effects of immunotherapy.

The study, which focused on pancreatic cancer, was published online in Cancer Cell and gives fresh insight into how the human immune system, which is meant to target external invaders like bacteria, may also recognize cancer cells as odd.

According to New York University researchers, exercise-induced elevations in the hormone adrenaline produce alterations in the immune system.

It comprises cell activity in response to the signalling molecule interleukin-15 (IL-15).

The researchers discovered that exercise increases the survival of IL-15-sensitive CD8 T cells and doubles the number of them that migrate to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) tumours in mice.

Other investigations have revealed that such “effector” T cells are capable of destroying cancer cells. Other studies revealed that 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week lowered the rate of cancer growth by 50% in one mouse model of PDAC and 25% in another, in which mice ran on treadmills for three weeks.

The researchers subsequently discovered, in partnership with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, that human patients who exercised before surgery to remove pancreatic tumours had more CD8 effector T cells that produced granzyme B, a protein that provides tumor-cell killing capabilities.

Patients who exercised and had more of these cell types had a 50% greater overall survival over five years than those who did not.

“For the first time, our findings illustrate how aerobic exercise alters the immunological microenvironment within pancreatic tumours,” stated first author Emma Kurz, a doctoral student at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

“The research contributed to the discovery that activating IL-15 signalling in pancreatic cancer might be an essential therapy option in the future.” IANS

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