Regular tai chi exercise decreases the percentage of type 2 cytokine-producing cells in postsurgical non-small cell lung cancer survivors

Cancer Nurs. 2013 Jul-Aug;36(4):E27-34. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318268f7d5.


Background: Tai Chi combines aspects of meditation and aerobic exercise. Its effect on the balance between cellular and humoral immunity, which potentiates human immunity against tumors, remains to be determined.

Objective: The objective was to investigate the effect of a 16-week Tai Chi exercise intervention on the recovery of postsurgical non-small cell lung cancer survivors.

Interventions/methods: A controlled study was performed in 32 lung cancer survivors who practiced Tai Chi during a 16-week period. The percentages of interferon γ-producing CD3 T lymphocyte cells (T1) and interleukin 4-producing CD3 T lymphocyte cells (T2) and CD3 T lymphocyte subsets (T helper cell type 1 [TH1], TH2; cytotoxic T cell type 1 [Tc1], Tc2) were determined as well as levels of hormones β-endorphin, general catecholamines, and cortisol.

Results: Whereas the T1/T2 and Tc1/Tc2 ratios in the control group decreased in the natural course of postsurgical non-small cell lung cancer recovery (both P < .01), no changes were observed in the Tai Chi group. The differences in changes in the T1/T2 and Tc1/Tc2 ratios (both P < .01) and in T2 and Tc2 levels (P < .01) between the 2 groups were significant. The cortisol level increased in the control group (P < .05) but not in Tai Chi group.

Conclusions: A 16-week Tai Chi exercise significantly diminished the magnitude of the decreased T1/T2 ratio in the natural course of recovery in a population of postsurgical non-small cell lung cancer survivors.

Implications for practice: Tai Chi may have a role in ameliorating the imbalance between humoral and cellular immunity, potentiating human immunity against tumors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / rehabilitation*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / surgery
  • China
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology
  • Immunity, Humoral / physiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survivors
  • Tai Ji / methods*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cytokines