Immunological changes after cancer treatment and participation in an exercise program

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Jan;35(1):2-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200301000-00002.


Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the impact of undertaking peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBST) on T-cell number and function, and to determine the role of a mixed type, moderate intensity exercise program in facilitating the recovery of T-cell number and function.

Methods: Immunological measures of white blood cell, lymphocyte, CD3, CD4, and CD8 counts, and CD3 cell function were assessed pretransplant (PI), immediately posttransplant (PII), and 1 month (I1), 2 months (I2) and 3 months (PIII) posttransplant. After PII, 12 patients were divided equally into a control group (CG) or exercise intervention group (EG).

Results: Lower total T-cell, helper T-cell, and suppressor T-cell counts (P< 0.01), as well as lower T-cell function (P< 0.01), when compared with normative data, were found at PI. More specifically, 88% of the group had CD3, CD4, and CD8 counts that were more than 40%, 20%, and 50% below normal at PI, respectively. Undertaking a PBST caused further adverse changes to the total leukocyte, lymphocyte, CD3, CD4 and CD8 count, and the helper/suppressor ratio. Although CD8 counts had returned to normal by PIII, CD3, CD4, and the CD4 /CD8 ratio remained significantly lower than normative data (P< 0.01), with 66%, 100%, and 100% of the subject group reporting counts and ratios, respectively, below the normal range.

Conclusion: The PBST patients were immunocompromised before undertaking the transplant, and the transplant procedure imposed further adverse changes to the leukocyte and lymphocyte counts. The leukocyte and CD8 counts returned to normal within 3 months posttransplant; however, the other immunological parameters assessed demonstrated a delayed recovery. Although participation in the exercise program did not facilitate a faster immune cell recovery, neither did the exercise program hinder or delay recovery.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Colorimetry
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Lymphocyte Subsets
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Prospective Studies
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*