Can exercise make chemotherapy more effective?

You already knew exercise can help prevent cancer. But what if it could help you fight your cancer? Researchers are looking into how exercise can help get chemotherapy into solid tumors more efficiently, helping lead our patients toward better outcomes. Moderate exercise shows promise for improving cancer treatment Tumor vascularity, the structure of the blood vessels within a solid tumor, can differ wildly from the vasculature in healthy tissues. Keri Schadler, Ph.D., has been studying the formation and function of blood vessels in tumors since she was a doctoral student here at the MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School. “One of the biggest issues with improving delivery of chemotherapy to solid tumors is that only about half of the blood vessels are functional and mature enough to deliver the drugs,” she says. “We’re working on ways to improve the function of the blood vessels so we can get chemotherapy to the places that need it most – the tumors.” Her lab’s work in mouse models is based on the premise that an increase in blood flow encourages blood vessels to grow and mature, and the best way to reliably increase blood flow is through exercise. Schadler and her colleagues have shown that mice with pancreatic cancer, melanoma and Ewing’s sarcoma have better outcomes and better responses to low dose chemotherapy when on an exercise regimen. “Moderate exercise five days a week was shown to be effective,” she says. “We’re still trying to determine whether it’s frequency or intensity that is most important, but our preclinical studies intentionally use very moderate exercise.” That’s good news for our patients, who often experience...