High Intensity Interval Training Increases Natural Killer Cell Number and Function in Obese Breast Cancer-challenged Mice and Obese Women

J Cancer Prev. 2017 Dec;22(4):260-266. doi: 10.15430/JCP.2017.22.4.260. Epub 2017 Dec 30.


High intensity interval training (HIIT) boosts natural killer (NK) cell number and activity in normal weight breast cancer patients; however, whether this occurs in obese individuals is not well established. The goal of this study was to determine whether HIIT effectively boosts NK cells as a therapeutic strategy against breast cancer in an obese mouse model and in overweight/obese women. Diet induced female C57Bl/6 obese mice were assigned to undergo HIIT for four weeks or remain sedentary. Female participants were subjected to a six weeks HIIT protocol. HIIT mice acclimatized to treadmill running were subsequently injected with 5 × 105 polyoma middle T (MT) breast cancer cells intravenously. NK cell number and activation were monitored using flow cytometry, and tumor burden or lipid content evaluated from histological lung and liver tissues, respectively. In both mice and humans, circulating NK cell number and activation (CD3-NK1.1+CD27+ and CD3-CD56+, respectively) markedly increased immediately after HIIT. HIIT obese mice had reduced lung tumor burden compared to controls following MT challenge, and had diminished hepatic lipid deposition despite minimal body weight loss. Our findings demonstrate that HIIT can benefit obese individuals by enhancing NK cell number and activity, reducing tumor burden, and enhancing metabolic health.

Keywords: Breast cancer; High-intensity interval training; Natural killer cell activation; Obesity; Tumor metastasis.