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Protective benefit of exercise on liver cancer

Wednesday April 15th, 2020

Australian researchers have reported new discoveries about the protective effect of exercise against liver cancer.

It appears to be protective against the disease regardless of body weight, according to tests on animals.

A team of researchers led by Dr Geoffrey Farrell of the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, looked at whether and how exercise can prevent liver cancer.

The researchers used lab mice that were genetically driven to eat so that they become obese and develop type 2 diabetes as young adults, then were injected with a low dose of a cancer-causing agent.

The animals were split into two groups, with one having no access to exercise and the other having regular access to a running wheel, leading them to run for up to 40 kilometres a day.

After six months all of the mice were obese, however most of the sedentary mice had liver cancer while none of the exercising mice had developed it.

Dr Farrell says: “As yet there are very few effective therapies for liver cancer so approaches to prevent liver cancer are greatly needed. Some population data suggest that persons who exercise regularly are less likely to develop liver cancer but, studies addressing whether this has a real biological basis, and, if so, identifying the molecular mechanism that produces such a protective effect, are few and the findings have been inconclusive.”

So the team set out to identify the molecular signalling pathways involved. They found that the stress-activated protein kinase JNK1 can be “switched off” by exercise, and that the tumour suppressor gene p53 regulates the cell cycle inhibitor, p27, stopping the persistent growth of potentially cancerous cells.

Results appeared in the Journal of Hepatology yesterday (14 April).

Arfianti, A. et al. Exercise retards hepatocarcinogenesis in obese mice independently of weight control. Journal of Hepatology 14 April 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2020.02.006

Tags: Australia | Cancer | Fitness | Internal Medicine

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