Study Highlights Benefits of Exercise for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

According to a story from Medpage Today, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center highlighted the substantial benefits of aerobic exercise in people living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a rare cancer. The study followed a group of patients that followed an exercise regimen for a period of 16 weeks. Prior studies have revealed that exercise and general physical fitness can improve quality of life, mitigate toxicities associated with cancer, and reduce fatigue.

About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a form of blood cancer which affects lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. The disease may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages. This cancer is linked to certain genetic mutations; notable risk factors for this blood cancer include old age, being male, exposure to certain insecticides, exposure to Agent Orange, and family history. Symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukemia include fever, anemia, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, and fatigue. It is also possible for this disease to transform into a more aggressive and faster progressing type of blood cancer like Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Treatment for this disease focuses mostly on controlling symptoms, and there is no cure. These treatments may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, bone marrow transplant, or biological therapy. As a slow growing cancer, the five-year survival rate is 83 percent. To learn more about chronic lymphocytic leukemia, click here.

Study Findings

The study participants included patients age 18 or older who were capable of participating in unsupervised exercise of moderate-to-vigorous intensity. A total of 24 patients were enrolled. 38% of the patients had been previously treated for the leukemia and half were receiving treatment during the study.

Participants saw improvements in several areas, such as reduced fatigue and body weight, greater number of reps performed during a 30-second sit-to-stand test, greater leisure-time exercise, improved grip strength, and improvements in the patients’ self-perception of physical capability. The exercise regimen also altered the T-cell composition of the patients. After the 16-week treatment period, patients with the best improvements in number of arm curls and 6-minute walk test, along with other evaluations, had a reduced proportion of PD-1+ CD4+ T-cells and human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR+PD-1+CD8+ T-cells. Reduced fatigue and increase leisure time exercise was linked to a greater CD4:CD8 T-cell ratio.

Some limits of the study included the small size and the grouping of patients who were doing different exercises into a single group, which limits the ability to connect certain affects to specific exercise activities. Additionally, none of the patients were receiving radiation or chemo treatment, potentially limiting the relevance of the findings to those patients whose disease isn’t severe enough to warrant those treatments.

Regardless, the scientists concluded that the findings linked exercise to reduction in fatigue and other improvements, such as better T-cell ratio and reduction in T-cell types linked to poor outcomes.

Find the original study abstract here.


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