Exercise Protects against Cancer-induced Cardiac Cachexia

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This study aimed to determine the effect of exercise on tumor morphology and cardiac function.


Fisher 344 rats (n = 28) were assigned to one of four groups: 1) sedentary non-tumor bearing (SED), 2) sedentary tumor bearing (SED + T), 3) wheel run non-tumor bearing (WR), or 4) wheel run tumor bearing (WR + T). Rats remained sedentary or exercised for 6 wk. At week 4, rats in tumor groups were inoculated with MatBIII tumor cells. At week 6, cardiac function was measured.


SED + T animals exhibited significantly lower left ventricular developed pressure when compared with SED, WR, and WR + T (P < 0.05). This coincided with a significant increase in cardiac autophagy (increased LC3-II) in SED + T animals when compared with SED, WR, and WR + T (P < 0.05). Furthermore, SED + T hearts showed a significant increase in β-myosin heavy chain expression versus nontumor groups (P < 0.05). Tumor mass was significantly larger (P < 0.001) in SED + T animals when compared with WR + T animals, which was accompanied by a significant increase in tumor LC3-II protein expression (P < 0.05).


Nonexercised tumor-bearing rats showed severe cardiac dysfunction and excessive, maladaptive autophagy in the heart and tumors. Voluntary exercise preserved cardiac function and attenuated the autophagic response in heart and tumor tissues. This preservation may be related to the reduced tumor growth in aerobically exercised rats, to the improved regulation of autophagy by exercise, or both.

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