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Study into how exercise can delay or avoid prostate cancer surgery awarded NHMRC project grant

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers will investigate whether exercise can help men avoid invasive treatments, and the associated side effects, for prostate cancer thanks to almost $600,000 in new funding.

Professor Daniel Galvão, Director of ECU’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute (EMRI), was today awarded a Project Grant worth $596,083 over five years from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

It will support research investigating how exercise may impact prostate cancer progression for patients who have low risk disease and elect for ‘active surveillance’.

Active surveillance

When men are diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer they are given the option of active surveillance instead of undergoing more radical treatment such as surgery or radiation therapy.

Active surveillance involves regular check-ups to monitor progress of the disease.

The advantage offered by active surveillance is that men can delay, or even avoid, the side effects of treatment for prostate cancer, which can involve incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

About half of men who undergo active surveillance for 10 years after diagnosis do not warrant treatment. This benefits their quality of life and saves the health system money.

Professor Galvão said the project was based on his team’s preliminary evidence published last year in the journal Nature Reviews Urology. They reported that exercise may have the potential to delay the need for active treatment for men undergoing active surveillance.

Testing targeted exercise during surveillance

Professor Galvão said prescribing exercise to men undergoing active surveillance for prostate cancer could offer a number of potential clinical benefits. These will be tested in this five-year NHMRC study.

“Exercise may slow or even suppress tumour growth, so by prescribing targeted exercise in patients with low grade prostate cancer we can delay, or even prevent the need for radical treatments and the side effects associated with them,” he said.

“The social benefits can be extensive, as could be savings to the health and medical system, with delay in prostate cancer surgery or radiation reducing costs of current overtreatment substantially.”

“Additionally, prescribed exercise could offer psychological benefits for men undergoing active surveillance. We know that three out of ten men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer will have clinically high distress and long-term unmet psychological needs.”

ECU co-investigators on this project are: Professor Rob Newton, Professor Dennis Taaffe, Professor Nigel Spry and Dr Nicolas Hart. External collaborators are Professor Mark Frydenberg (Monash), Professor Suzanne Chambers (Griffith) and Professor Dickon Hayne (Fiona Stanley Hospital).

This latest NHMRC funding follows previous recognition of ECU’s leading role in prostate cancer and exercise oncology research, including:

  • This grant is the third NHMRC funded Project Grant from ECU’s EMRI in exercise and prostate cancer in addition to three nationally competitive Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) project grants, one Cancer Australia grant and multiple Cancer Council Western Australia grants, providing continual externally competitive funding to ECU’s EMRI for over a decade.
  • In 2016 ECU is co-lead in the NHMRC’s $2.5 million Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Prostate Cancer Survivorship.
  • In 2016 ECU was chosen, along with University of California, San Francisco, to oversee the $10 million Movember Global Action Plan 4 to extend the lives of men with prostate cancer with targeted exercise medicine.
  • ECU EMRI co-authored national exercise guidelines for cancer patients by Exercise and Sports Science Australia and international guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine.
  • ECU EMRI is the most published Research Institute in exercise oncology in Australia and the most published in exercise and prostate cancer in the World.


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