In their lifetime, 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is the second most common cancer in men in the U.S. There are more than three million men living with the disease, and as survivors, many of whom are dealing with serious side effects from the treatment. 

Physicians and researchers with the University of Minnesota Physicians are now starting a study to determine if intense exercise will improve survival for these men with advanced prostate cancer.

This randomized clinical trial for men with advanced prostate is co-sponsored by the Movember Foundation and the University of Minnesota, in collaboration with fitness centers throughout the metro where patients will be able to enroll in workouts and coaching sessions.

Charles Ryan, MD, and Arpit Rao, MBBS, both from the Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation division, are leading the study. 

“This two-year study will elevate our understanding of physical activity for all patients but also could be a clear-cut indication that there is a role for exercise science in the management of cancer—more specifically if there is role for trainers and the like to be involved in these patients’ care throughout many points in the cancer treatment spectrum."

Charles Ryan, MD, M Physicians Medical Oncologist

The research could show whether or not coaching and training can lead to reduced complications, visits to the hospital and pain. 

“Perhaps we can begin to prescribe exercise for a patient,” Dr. Ryan said.

Physicians are learning more and more about how physical activity helps promote healing, augments the immune system, reduces fatigue and improves a physiological state, but are now learning, specifically with prostate cancer, which is a disease that is driven by hormones, that they may be able to reverse some of the impact of the hormonal effects by exercise.

Dr. Rao, Dr. Ryan and their team will consent patients for this study, who will then be randomly allocated (by a computer) to either intensive exercise or routine physical activity. All patients will receive concurrent, standard-of-care medical treatment for prostate cancer. 

The treatment component involves patients having a trainer work specifically with them so that they exercise at the right level, do the right things, achieve the proper heart rate and oxygen consumption. The patients will train for a pretty intense period of time over the first six months, eventually tapering off of the number of sessions. At the end, the patient will be expected to direct their own exercise regime. 

“Hopefully by that time, they will be trained and adept at the types of exercises they need to do, which includes a combination of resistance and aerobic training,” Dr. Ryan explained. “We are really excited about the possibility of bringing cancer therapy to your local gym.”