Laura Bilek, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy education; Graham Sharp, Ph.D., professor of genetics, cell biology and anatomy; and Geoffrey Thiele, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine rheumatology, along with a trio from Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute, analyzed T cells in the blood of cancer survivors before and after a 12-week exercise program. They presented “Effect of Exercise on T Cells in Cancer Survivors” last week at the Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting in Westminster, Colo.
The idea that exercise can change the immune system for the better is not new. But research by the UNMC-RMCRI team specifically targeted the T cells of cancer survivors.
T cells typically fight infections and suppress cancers. But previous research has shown that following chemotherapy, many T cells become senescent – less effective. The UNMC-RMCRI team’s initial research suggested that exercise may decrease senescent T cells, making room for functional T cell populations – those ready to fight infections and potentially kill surviving tumor cells.
“What we’re suggesting is that with exercise, you might be getting rid of T cells that aren’t helpful and make room for T cells that might be helpful,” Dr. Bilek said.
Data analysis is still in progress and a great deal of further research is needed, Dr. Bilek said. This pilot study will be instrumental in helping the investigators design larger clinical trials to study this question more thoroughly.
Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.