Call for breast cancer survivors to join new exercise study

UWS Campbelltown campus

UWS Campbelltown campus


The potential for exercise to boost the immune function in breast cancer patients is being investigated in a new clinical trial at the University of Western Sydney.

Women with breast cancer have low natural killer cell activity caused by the cancer itself and treatments such as chemotherapy.  Natural killer cells are specialised cells within the immune system that work to eradicate cancerous and virus-infected cells and tumours.

Previous studies have shown that aerobic exercise, for example cycling or walking, can boost natural killer cell activity.  However, to date, there has been no exploration of the effects of resistance training (weight lifting). Resistance training is a particularly important form of exercise for women recovering from breast cancer treatment given its potential to improve many health outcomes, including muscle mass, strength, bone mineral density, range of motion, self esteem, quality of life, and ability to perform daily activities.

The randomised controlled trial underway in the UWS School of Science and Health aims to investigate the effect of a 16-week resistance training program on natural killer cell activity and related health outcomes in 50 breast cancer patients.

The trial is currently recruiting participants who have completed treatment within the past three years or who will be finishing in the next six months.

Participants don't need to have any previous experience with exercise or training in a gym.

Women who are assigned to the resistance training group will attend three fully supervised and tailored training sessions of 60 minutes each at the UWS Campbelltown campus each week. 

All women in the study will have blood samples taken to measure their natural killer cell activity as well other measurements of health and fitness. 

In Australia, 15,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year and the number continues to grow each year.  The 5-year survival rates are increasing but mortality rates remain high. 

If proven successful, resistance training exercise could become an additional defence for breast cancer patients against opportunistic infections during radiotherapy and chemotherapy and, in the long term, help prevent the recurrence of cancer by boosting natural killer cell activity. 

To find out more about the trial and participate, contact:

Mandy McKee, ph: 0414 890 342 or

This study has received ethical approval from the University of Western Sydney Human Ethics Research Committee. The approval number is H9427.

This study is also registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN: ACTRN12612000346875).


14 June 2012

Contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer