Back Extension Exercise. Permission Joseph E. Muscolino. Orthopedic Manual Therapy - A Clinical Orthopedic Approach (2015)

Stretching Reduces Cancer Tumor Growth in a Study with Mice

Natural Treatment Options for Cancer

There is growing interest in developing natural / non-pharmacological treatments that could boost natural defenses against cancer and contribute to primary and secondary cancer prevention. For example, recent studies already completed from Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School have shown that gentle daily stretching for 10 minutes can reduce local connective tissue inflammation and fibrosis.

Stretching and Cancer

Helene Langevin, MD, one of the authors said “We know, generally, that physical activity is beneficial in cancer patients but not why that is. Some animal models of exercise show benefit, others don’t.” As mechanical factors within the stroma can influence the cancer tumor microenvironment, the researchers investigated whether stretching would reduce the growth of tumors implanted within locally stretched tissues. They tested this hypothesis on mice.

Comment by Joseph Muscolino – Efficacy of Stretching

I find so much of the controversy about stretching in recent years to be overblown; and I feel that many people are jumping to conclusions that are unwarranted in their interpretation of studies involving stretching. The overriding conclusions from most every study I have ever read show that stretching done on a regular basis does, in fact, increase flexibility of soft tissues, which must have a positive effect on movement function of the body (pain science people, I said nothing about pain there, although there certainly might be a conclusion there as well). What I find fascinating about this research study is that we are looking at the possible benefits of movement and stretching to not only the musculoskeletal system, but to visceral pathologic conditions, like cancer. Movement therapists should LOVE this study!

New Study

Stretching and breast cancer.

Breast cancer cells.

Female mice (N = 66) underwent bilateral injection of p53/PTEN double-null primary mouse mammary (breast) tumor cells into the third mammary fat pad. Mice were randomized into two groups: treatment and control groups. The treatment group were treated with stretching, 10 minutes, once a day, for four weeks. The control group were not stretched.

Stretching Method

The researchers used a protocol for stretching in mice in which the animals are held by the tail and gently lifted, allowing their front paws to grasp a bar. With minimal training, mice can comfortably hold this position for 10 minutes.

Results

Tumor volume at end-point was 52% smaller in the stretch group, compared to the non-stretch group in the absence of any other treatment. Also, cytotoxic immune responses were activated and levels of Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators were elevated in the stretch group. These results suggest a link between immune exhaustion, inflammation resolution and tumor growth. However, the researchers still don’t understand the mechanism for how stretching reduces tumor growth.

Methods and results for study of the effects of stretching on cancer.

Methods and results for study of the effects of stretching on cancer.

Comment by Joseph Muscolino – Need for These Studies?

I am not a big fan of animal studies in which the animals are harmed for our (human) benefit. But when this research article was sent to me, I saw that the possible application benefits to our health are so great that I felt compelled to post it. The fact that simple stretching for only 10 minutes per day could reduce cancer tumor growth by 52% in this study involving mice is pretty amazing! Being a manual and movement therapy physician, author, and educator, it is clear to me that the human body needs movement. And although, there are many wonderful aspects to our modern culture, the fact that we do not move anywhere near as much as we once did is certainly unfortunate (he writes as he sits sedentary at his computer :/). It is often said nowadays that “sitting is the new smoking.” It is ironic that it might take expensive and elaborate research studies such as this to convince us that we should get up and move around for 10 minutes. But, in this evidence-based obsessed era that we live in, perhaps we need these studies to convince people of simple otherwise-obvious conclusions. Please do not get me wrong; I love research. I just find it sad that we need these research studies to prove to us what is pretty fundamentally clear knowledge that can be extrapolated from an understanding of the musculoskeletal (neuro-myo-fascio-skeletal) system, as well as the circulatory system, and probably many other systems of the body. That is, that movement is healthy for us. But having said all this, I welcome any information and knowledge that will convince physicians and therapists to recommend movement to their patients/clients, and any information and knowledge that will convince people out there to move.  🙂

Another Great Article for You!  What are the self-care and medical approaches to treating a pathologic disc?

Did you know that Digital COMT (Digital Clinical Orthopedic Manual Therapy), Dr. Joe Muscolino’s video streaming subscription service for manual and movement therapists, has an entire folder with video lessons on Stretching? Digital COMT adds seven new video lessons each and every week. And nothing ever goes away! Click here for more information.

Application?

physical activity

physical activity… movement… stretching. 🙂

The authors suggested that stretching is a gentle, non-pharmacological intervention that could become an important component of cancer treatment and prevention. But they also caution that this preclinical research in no way suggests that cancer patients should stretch instead of receiving traditional cancer treatment.

The research is at an early, investigative stage, and before it can be translated into a human protocol for clinical trials, further preclinical safety testing and dosage testing is needed. The team also wants to look at animal models with more advanced cancer that could metastasize (spread) to understand whether stretching may increase or decrease the spread of the disease.

Comment by Joseph Muscolino – More Studies Please

Following on my last comment above, even though I decried the necessity of having these studies to show us that movement and stretching are healthy for us, I must admit that I would love to see more research studies that investigate all the possible parameters that movement and stretching might have to benefit our health with respect to cancer, and indeed all other life-threatening diseases. These studies might examine not only whether movement and stretching can help treat cancer once it has occurred, but also whether movement and stretching might be able to prevent the formation of cancer in the first place.

This blog post article was created in collaboration with www.terrarosa.com.au.

(Click here for the blog post article: Massage Therapy Reduces Cancer-Related Fatigue.)

Did you know that Digital COMT (Digital Clinical Orthopedic Manual Therapy), Dr. Joe Muscolino’s video streaming subscription service for manual and movement therapists, has an entire folder with video lessons on Stretching? Digital COMT adds seven new video lessons each and every week. And nothing ever goes away! Click here for more information.

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