Exercise may extend survival in brain cancer

A recent study of patients with recurrent malignant glioma revealed exercise behavior to be a strong independent predictor of survival. Although the study was not designed to test whether regular exercise actually prolongs the lives of persons with this lethal brain malignancy, it established a strong correlation that may help provide a more accurate prognosis of long-term survival.

Lee W. Jones, PhD, associate professor in the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina, served as senior author of the study, an evaluation of 243 patients at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center. All participants had WHO grades 3 to 4 recurrent malignant glioma, but those who reported engaging in regular, brisk exercise—the equivalent of an energetic, 30-minute walk 5 days per week—had significantly prolonged survival, living a median of 21.84 months vs 12.03 months for the most sedentary patients.

“Exercise behavior added incremental prognostic value beyond that provided by KPS [Kamofsky Performance Status], age, sex, grade, and number of prior progressions,” wrote the researchers in their report for the Journal of Clinical Oncology. They added that functional capacity, assessed by 6-minute walk test, was not an independent predictor of prognosis.

“This provides some initial evidence that we need to look at the effects of exercise interventions, not only to ease symptoms but also to impact progression and survival,” explained Jones in a separate statement. He noted that discovering why exercise may lead to improvements in survival following a cancer diagnosis could provide new insights into cancer progression.

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