Right dose of exercise can ease chemo side effects
The University of Rochester Wilmot Cancer Institute study, involving more than 300 cancer patients, is to be presented this weekend and honored as a "Best of ASCO" among 5,800 abstracts at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting 2016.
Investigators in the exercise study directly compared the neuropathic symptoms in non-exercisers to the pain among patients who took part in a specialized six-week walking routine with gentle, resistance-band training at home.
The exercisers reported significantly fewer symptoms of neuropathy, which includes shooting or burning pain, tingling, numbness, and sensitivity to cold, and the effects of exercise seemed to be most beneficial for older patients, said lead author Ian Kleckner.
Not all chemotherapy drugs cause neuropathy, but 60 percent of people with breast cancer and other solid tumors who receive taxanes, vinca alkaloids, and platinum-based chemotherapies will likely suffer this type of side effect, Kleckner said.
Neuropathy is more commonly associated with diabetes or nerve damage. No FDA-approved drugs are available to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, he added.
Wilmot's specialized exercise program, called EXCAP (Exercise for Cancer Patients), was developed several years ago at the UR by Karen Mustian.
"Our program at the University of Rochester, which now includes more than a half-dozen researchers, is becoming a real powerhouse in exercise oncology," Mustian said.
"Twelve years ago when we started this work a lot of people said it was not safe for most cancer patients to exercise. Now we know it can be safe when done correctly, and that it has measurable benefits. But more exercise isn't always better for patients who are going through chemo--so it's important to continue our work and find a way to personalize exercise in a way that will help each individual."