DURHAM, N.C. Brain cancer patients who are able to exercise live significantly longer than sedentary patients, scientists at the Duke Cancer Institute report.
The finding, published online Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, adds to recent research that exercise improves how cancer patients feel during and after treatments, and may also extend their lives.
"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," said Lee W. Jones, PhD, associate professor in the Duke Cancer Institute and senior author of the study.
Although the study was not designed to test whether regular exercise actually causes longer survival among brain cancer patients, it established a strong correlation that could give doctors and patients a more accurate prognosis of long-term survival.
The study enrolled 243 patients at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke with advanced recurrent gliomas, lethal brain malignancies that typically result in a median life expectancy of less than six months.
The patients who reported participating in regular, brisk exercise - the equivalent of an energetic walk five days a week for 30 minutes - had significantly prolonged survival, living a median 21.84 months vs. 13.03 months for the most sedentary patients.
The self-reported exercise behavior offered an important additional means of predicting survival among the glioma patients beyond other measures traditionally used for prognosis, including a six-minute walk test.
Jones said the walk test is a good way to gauge the functional capacity of people with heart failure or other cardiac or pulmonary disorders, but it may not be informative for brain cancer patients who frequently suffer dizzy spells and other neurological problems that hamper walking.
Jose Cortes, a Duke patient who has battle
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Duke University Medical Center