Exploring exercise benefits for breast cancer patients

August 28, 2012

Researchers in Edmonton and Calgary want to recruit 1,500 breast cancer patients over the next decade to find out how exercise and fitness affects cancer survival and recovery.

The Alberta Moving Beyond Breast Cancer, or AMBER, study will see a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, University of Calgary and Athabasca University spend the next 10 to 15 years investigating how might benefit from exercise and physical fitness.

"This is the first study of a group of that's focused specifically on and fitness—how much exercise, the type of exercise, the pattern of exercise—that might be linked to risk of recurrence and survival," said team co-leader Kerry Courneya, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.

"That will give us much better clues on the optimal exercise prescription for fighting breast cancer."

Though previous research has shown that physical activity improves a breast cancer patient's chances of survival, Courneya notes that such studies have relied on self-reported data, which is not always reliable. The AMBER study will include objective measures of health-related fitness and physical activity.

Courneya will lead efforts in Edmonton, where his team will recruit newly diagnosed breast and assess their physical fitness, activity levels and , in addition to blood and lymphedema tests. Testing will be done soon after surgery and again after one year and three years.

A similar group of patients will be assessed in Calgary by a team led by Christine Friedenreich, team co-leader, senior research scientist at Alberta Health Services, and adjunct professor and Alberta Cancer Foundation Weekend to End Women's Cancers Breast Cancer Chair at the University of Calgary.

Patients will wear accelerometers to measure their physical activity, with researchers looking at whether workout intensity, duration and even sedentary behaviour influence survival and recurrence, Friedenreich said.

"Right now, we don't know how much exercise or what type or what pattern might be linked to disease recurrence and survival," she said.

Researchers will also look at cancer treatment completion rates, such as whether fit patients are better able to tolerate the toxic side-effects of chemotherapy and hormone therapy treatments, and at biomarkers such as immune function and insulin levels that might explain how physical activity is related to survival after breast cancer.

They will also examine quality-of-life factors like depression, anxiety and fatigue, and assess what factors influence survivors to , such as treatments, symptoms and age.

Carol Graham, 60, had a mastectomy after discovering a lump in her breast last February and is now receiving chemotherapy. The retired cook from Minburn, Alta., volunteered to join the AMBER study partly as a motivational tool to become more physically active.

"I need to improve my cardiovascular fitness," recognized Graham, noting a body scan of her muscle, bone and fat composition revealed "a number that was not too good."

But more important, she views her participation in AMBER in the same light as courageous women who volunteered for clinical trials that ultimately improved the care and treatment of breast cancer.

"People who went before me volunteered so I could have anti-nausea medication for chemotherapy, so I could have medications to fight infections. That happened because someone was willing to try," she said. "The more we know about fitness and cancer, the more handles we get on it, I want to be part of that."

Recruiting patients will take five years, and following the entire group through treatment and beyond will take 10 to 15 years, Courneya said.

"It's a long-term study but we will have a very comprehensive database that we will use to investigate many questions related to physical activity, fitness and survivorship."

Explore further: Exercise can improve the health and wellbeing of cancer patients

Related Stories

Exercise can improve the health and wellbeing of cancer patients

January 31, 2012
Exercise can improve the health of cancer patients who have completed their main cancer-related treatment finds a study published in the British Medical Journal.

Physical activity linked to reduced mortality in breast and colon cancer patients

May 8, 2012
Physical activity is associated with reduced breast and colon cancer mortality, but there is insufficient evidence on the association for other cancer types, according to a study published May 8 in the Journal of the National ...

Exercise, even mild physical activity, may reduce breast cancer risk

June 25, 2012
A new analysis done by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has found that physical activity – either mild or intense and before or after menopause – may reduce breast cancer risk, but substantial ...

Cardio fitness levels of breast cancer patients may affect survival

May 23, 2012
Women receiving care for breast cancer have significantly impaired cardio-pulmonary function that can persist for years after they have completed treatment, according to a study led by scientists at Duke University Medical ...

Guidelines say diet, exercise, weight control improve odds after cancer diagnosis

April 26, 2012
New guidelines from the American Cancer Society say for many cancers, maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can reduce the chance of recurrence and increase the likelihood ...

Recommended for you

New bowel cancer drug target discovered

October 17, 2017
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have discovered a new drug target for bowel cancer that is specific to tumour cells and therefore less toxic than conventional therapies.

Many pelvic tumors in women may have common origin—fallopian tubes

October 17, 2017
Most—and possibly all—ovarian cancers start, not in ovaries, but instead in the fallopian tubes attached to them.

Researchers find novel mechanism of resistance to anti-cancer drugs

October 17, 2017
The targeted anti-cancer therapies cetuximab and panitumumab are mainstays of treatment for advanced colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, many patients have tumors ...

Using artificial intelligence to improve early breast cancer detection

October 17, 2017
Every year 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the U.S. alone. When cancers are found early, they can often be cured. Mammograms are the best test available, but they're still imperfect and often result in false positive ...

Biology of childhood brain tumor subtypes offers clues to precision treatments

October 17, 2017
Researchers investigating pediatric low-grade gliomas (PLGG), the most common type of brain tumor in children, have discovered key biological differences in how mutated genes combine with other genes to drive this childhood ...

New assay may boost targeted treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

October 17, 2017
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive cancer and the most frequently diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma worldwide (nearly 40% of cases). Recent advancements indicate that both the prognosis and choice of treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.