Canadian researcher hopes to prove exercise can be an anti-cancer ‘drug’

"This is the largest investment that Movember ever made in terms of research .".

A Canadian researcher is leading an international clinical trial that he hopes can change the way we treat cancer.

The current focus is on advanced prostate cancer patients who’ve stopped responding to traditional treatments. The hope is to extend their life through a structured, high-intensity workout regimen.

“We want to actually prove [exercise] does more than just makes you feel better and actually prolongs your survival,” explained Dr. Fred Saad, a urologist-oncologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre.

Prostate cancer patients whose options have seemingly run out are encouraged to ask their doctors to join the randomized trial. It’s already been launched in Australia and Ireland and is expected to run in at least 10 Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

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Those who volunteer will be led through an hour of aerobic and resistance training three times a week, and compared against a control group who will only get general exercise recommendations.

It’s reportedly the largest research project to ever be funded by the Movember Foundation and will cost an estimated $10 million.

READ MORE: Where $5 million of your Movember fundraising money went

It builds on other Canadian research that’s examined the benefits of a regular dose of exercise.

A 2013 University of Alberta study, for instance, found breast cancer patients who did 60 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week had a lower risk of recurrence of the disease and a longer survival.

READ MORE: What type of exercise is most beneficial to breast cancer patients?

This clinical trial will be the largest ever of its kind, Saad said, and the first to hopefully prove the link between exercise and cancer survival.

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Life-prolonging cancer drugs — which he said can cost $50,000 a year for one person — can take a toll on patients, often making them lose their hair as well as causing pain and complications.

Those chemotherapy side effects are thought to be lessened by exercise, as it’s believed to strengthen bones and muscles.

READ MORE: New study concludes regular exercise helps prevent cancer 

The roughly 100 international researchers working on this study figure if patients can tolerate more therapy through exercise, they’ll ultimately live longer.

Results won’t be known for five years, so it’s still too early to tell if the findings could be extended to other types of cancer.

But “researchers are betting that exercise could well become the next anti-cancer therapy.”

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