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Resistance training reduces inflammation and fatigue and improves physical function in older breast cancer survivors

Serra, Monica C. PhD1,3; Ryan, Alice S. PhD1,3; Ortmeyer, Heidi K. PhD2,3; Addison, Odessa DPT, PhD2,4; Goldberg, Andrew P. MD2,3

doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000969
Brief Report

Objective: Resistance training (RT) reduces fatigue and improves physical function and quality of life (QOL) in breast cancer survivors (BCS). This may be related to reductions in systemic and tissue-specific inflammation. This pilot study examines the hypothesis that RT induces changes in systemic and tissue-specific inflammation that contribute to improvements in physical and behavioral function in postmenopausal BCS.

Methods: Eleven BCS (60 ± 2 years old, body mass index 30 ± 1 kg/m2, mean ± SEM) underwent assessments of fatigue (Piper Fatigue Scale), physical function, QOL (SF-36), glucose and lipid metabolism, and systemic, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissue inflammation (n = 9) before and after 16 weeks of moderate-intensity whole-body RT.

Results: Muscle strength improved by 25% to 30% (P < 0.01), QOL by 10% (P = 0.04), chair stand time by 15% (P = 0.01), 6-minute walk distance by 4% (P = 0.03), and fatigue decreased by 58% (P < 0.01), fasting insulin by 18% (P = 0.04), and diastolic and systolic blood pressure by approximately 5% (P = 0.04) after RT. BCS with the worst fatigue and QOL demonstrated the greatest improvements (absolute change vs baseline: fatigue: r = −0.95, P < 0.01; QOL: r = −0.82, P < 0.01). RT was associated with an approximately 25% to 35% relative reduction in plasma and adipose tissue protein levels of proinflammatory interleukin (IL)-6sR, serum amyloid A, and tumor necrosis factor-α, and 75% relative increase in muscle pro-proliferative, angiogenic IL-8 protein content by 75% (all P < 0.05). BCS with the highest baseline proinflammatory cytokine levels had the greatest absolute reductions, and the change in muscle IL-8 correlated directly with improvements in leg press strength (r = 0.53, P = 0.04).

Conclusions: These preliminary results suggest that a progressive RT program effectively lowers plasma and tissue-specific inflammation, and that these changes are associated with reductions in fatigue and improved physical and behavioral function in postmenopausal BCS.

1Research Service, Baltimore VA Medical Center, Baltimore, MD

2Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Baltimore VA Medical Center, Baltimore, MD

3Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

4Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Address correspondence to: Monica C. Serra, PhD, Baltimore VA GRECC, 10 N Greene St. (BT/18/GR), Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail:

Received 2 June, 2017

Revised 12 July, 2017

Accepted 12 July, 2017

Funding/support: This study was supported by funds from the Maryland Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (P30 AG028747), Career Development Award Numbers IK2 RX-000944 (MCS), and IK2 RX-001788-01 (OA) from the United States (US) Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation R&D (Rehab RD) Service, a VA Senior Research Career Scientist Award (ASR), the Baltimore VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), and NIDDK Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Obesity Research Center (P30 DK072488).

Financial disclosure/conflict of interests: None reported.

© 2018 by The North American Menopause Society.