Can Exercise Extend Survival in Prostate Cancer?

Researchers examine the impact of aerobic and resistance training on cancer outcomes.

Researchers are seeking to demonstrate the hypothesis that exercise can extend the life of metastatic prostate cancer patients.

Many patients with metastatic prostate cancer become sedentary, and scientists believe this could have an effect on cancer progression. In the coming weeks ahead, approximately 60 hospitals worldwide will start recruiting patients for a phase 3 clinical trial, which already started in Australia and Ireland.

The total participation will include nearly 900 men with advanced prostate cancer. An overview of the first international study was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

“We will study exercise as if it were a drug added to standard treatments,” said lead researcher Fred Saad. “All patients will be treated within the latest scientific knowledge for this type of cancer. They will continue to follow their therapies and take their medications. But half of the patients will receive psychosocial support with general recommendations on physical exercise. The other half will also follow a high intensity exercise program.”

In collaboration with Saad, exercise medicine expert Robert Newton, designed a strength and cardiovascular training program for patients in the exercise group.

“They will have an hour of aerobic and resistance training 3 times a week,” Newton said. “An exercise specialist will supervise them for the first 12 months, and then they will continue without direct supervision. We will evaluate quality of life, appetite, and treatment tolerance in relation to their improved physical condition.”

Through muscle biopsies and blood samples, researchers believe it will provide scientists with a better understanding of the benefits of exercise, and hope that it will help strengthen patients’ muscles and bones.

“Normally, patients at this stage have a life expectancy of 2 to 3 years,” Saad said. “We want to reduce mortality by at least 22%, which represents about 6 months of longer survival. This is the equivalent benefit of a new drug. Exercise could therefore supplement available treatments, inexpensively.”