ECU researchers are world leaders in a surprising and powerful new weapon in the fight against cancer – exercise.
Their work has helped to define a new area of cancer study; offer professional development for cancer specialists and colleagues; better support cancer patients and their families; and create a world-first exercise clinic that complements traditional radiotherapy.
Professor Rob Newton, Professor Daniel Galvão, and Professor Dennis Taaffe from ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute are pioneers in the field of exercise oncology, and in 2005 were the first to publish a review paper on the approach, in the leading Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Shortly afterwards, they released the results of an influential trial that demonstrated the clinical benefits of resistance training for muscle and physical function in patients undergoing androgen deprivation (a common treatment for prostate cancer).
As a result of their investigations, exercise is now regarded as a legitimate treatment for cancer patients that should be integrated with traditional medical care.
This approach has the ability to greatly improve patient outcomes, including quality of life.
The research has transformed best practice cancer clinical management worldwide, with the researchers invited to contribute to writing the Australian and United States guidelines for exercise and cancer.
The findings have been translated in various ways, including the creation of an exercise clinic located within a radiotherapy centre in Perth – the first facility of its kind anywhere in the world.
Remarkably, exercise has been shown to increase the efficacy of radiation therapy while also reducing its side effects.
More than 75,000 patients to date have accessed the clinic to undertake guided exercise immediately before or after their radiotherapy session.
To better support Australian men with prostate cancer irrespective of their location, ECU also developed TrueNTH, an online support system sponsored by the Movember Foundation.
This program includes specialist training for the exercise physiologists who work with these patients. Due to its success, TrueNTH has subsequently been adopted in the UK, Canada, and other countries.
To facilitate further professional development, the Exercise Medicine Research Institute created an online course for specialists who work with cancer patients and survivors.
This provides allied health professionals with the knowledge and skills required to implement safe and effective exercise programs for people with cancer.
The research program has involved collaboration with community groups including the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Movember, and Cancer Council WA.
Key to its success has been the input of many clinicians, allowing the researchers to “reverse engineer” solutions to the clinical problems and issues presented.
Total funding secured to date is $17 million, and public interest and engagement in the research outcomes is high. A Facebook post promoting an episode of the ABC television program Catalyst that focused on the ECU exercise oncology research has been viewed more than 31 million times.
For further information contact ECU Research.
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