Exercise Can Strengthen the Immune Systems in Patients with Myeloma

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Supervised exercise can help to improve the immune system for patients with myeloma, recent research showed.

exercise equipment: dumbbells, resistance bands, jumprope

Research showed that exercise can help with T-cell exhaustion, thereby improving the immune system in patients with myeloma.

Patients with multiple myeloma can have a weakened immune system, and daily exercise can help with that, according to recent research conducted at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The trial included 43 patients, half who partook in a six-month supervised exercise program, and the other half that completed six months of mild levels of exercise, which was monitored by activity trackers.

Read More: A Healthy Lifestyle Will Help Patients Get Through Myeloma Treatment

Researchers analyzed blood samples before and after the six-month trial period to determine a change in the number of exhausted versus non-exhausted T cells.

T-cell exhaustion is also a factor in the growth of myeloma. T cells (CD4+ and CD8+) play the role of fighting off cancer, but certain cancer characteristics can interfere with the T cells’ protective factor against malignancies. These exhaust the cells and, in turn, the immune system becomes less active.

“Immune cell exhaustion is believed to happen because of the disease itself and treatments. It is characterized by expression of certain proteins on the surface of immune cells and impairs their ability to kill cancer cells,” explained Dr. Jens Hillengas, chief of Myeloma at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a recent interview with CURE®.

Researchers measured the impact and quantity of these cells through flow cytometry (an instrument used to investigate specific characteristics within the cells) at the start and end of the trial.

But Hillengas mentions that, “the immune panel used in our study might be limited to specialized centers and will vary from center to center.”

Ultimately, the study concluded that, on average, patients who underwent the six-month trial tended to show a less exhausted T-cell profile than what was observed at enrollment, thereby showing and improvement in the patients’ immune system.

That said, researchers were unable to determine if one form of exercise is more impactful than another.

“Based on a relatively small number of patients, the current data suggests there is no clear difference for endurance versus resistance training. Any kind of exercise should be discussed with the treating provider before starting it,” explained Hillengas.

The researchers did realize, however, that exercising long-term may be more beneficial than short-term interventions.

“Earlier studies by other groups have used interventions of about three months and have not shown significant benefits. Therefore, we think intervention should be longer rather than shorter (regarding): lifestyle changes,” said Hillengas.

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