For this reason, the researchers suggest that the countermeasure program used by astronauts before, during and after spaceflight to maintain their health could be developed and applied to cancer patients to help them recover after treatment.
"It was surprising to see similarities between astronauts in space flight and cancer patients during treatment. They both have decreased muscle mass and they have demineralization of bones and changes in heart function," said senior author Essessika Scott. and a researcher in exercise physiology at the Sloan Catering Memorial Cancer Center for oncology training. "Astronauts can get something called space fog, where they have trouble focusing or little to forget. It's very similar to what some cancer patients experience, called a chemo brain. "
But astronauts and cancer patients are advised in a completely different way from one another, despite similar problems they face. The authors of the commentary reviewed a NASA countermeasure program to see how it can be applied to cancer patients.
For 58 years, NASA has been sending people into space, with flights ranging from 15 minutes in 1961 to nearly a year at the International Space Station for current astronauts.
The search for countermeasures to help people stay stable and healthy in space began early. They did not know the effect of zero gravity on the body or specific organs. And, mainly, they dealt with heart injury, so multiple assessments were used to track that activity before, during, and after the flight, according to the comment.
NASA's concerns were valid. Astronaut James Irvine had an undisclosed coronary heart disease and 21 months after returning to Earth, suffered an acute myocardial infarction, the authors write.
Initially, the astronauts of the Mercury Project, released in 1959, had to run every day a month before their space flight. Gemini astronauts trained before their missions and during spaceflight, using banjas. By the time the space station missions began in 2001, NASA had astronauts performing a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training during their 91 to 215 day missions.
Now, in the months before their launch, astronauts are working with specialists to create a strength, condition and rehabilitation program to create a basic pre-flight. They continue the program by using station equipment. When they return, astronauts are monitored as they exercise to make sure their condition returns to the baseline set before the flight of space.
After more than 50 years of human space flight, researchers know some of the risks to the human body by being in zero gravity. Astronauts have to cope with stressful surroundings, noise, isolation, disturbed circadian rhythm, radiation exposure and fluid changes that occur when moving fluid that occurs when floating against solid ground.
Over time, astronauts who stay at the station for six months or more may experience bone and muscle weakness and loss. atrophy. Astronauts also experience blood volume loss, weakened immune systems and cardiovascular deconditioning because hovering takes little effort and the heart does not have to work so hard to pump blood, says a NASA human research program.
Countermeasures were developed to reduce these risks. But as the authors of the comment put it, "Cancer is the only major chronic disease condition in which a comparable countermeasure program is not an aspect of standard management."
Unlike astronauts who are required to practice and monitor their cardio-respiratory fitness levels, cancer patients are advised differently.
"It is completely backwards about how it is on Earth, where cancer patients can still be advised to rest in preparation for and during treatment and may need to seek permission from their doctors," said Scott.
While NASA was studying how to keep astronauts safe and sound in the 1960s, doctors were trying to discover new treatments for cancer, the authors write. Only 50% of cancer patients survived five years beyond diagnosis. Doctors have tried to manage tumors, reducing their size and the way they spread.
Now, 90% of patients survive early-stage cancer, the researchers say, but there are no ongoing countermeasures to help deal with the stress and toxicity their bodies face during treatment.
At present, toxicity management is one of the pharmaceuticals that target the function of individual organs. It does not help patients to return to normal before being diagnosed.
"So it is very timely to start thinking about how to use NASA's tactics to manage some of these long-term side effects of cancer treatments," Scott said. "Many patients do not die of cancer, but they are now at risk of dying from these side effects. Using a NASA exercise plan can help. "
Researchers have suggested that even treadmills can help cancer patients, as well as tests to monitor their readiness over time to develop an initial level and reduce the risk of heart problems that may arise. side effects of treatment. Scott's team at Sloan Kettering is currently investigating how exercise can counteract these side effects of treatment.
They provided patients with treadmills in their homes as well as video calling opportunities to help them practice before, during and after treatment.
In the comment, the researchers suggest "proof of concept" randomized trials to check if the countermeasures program would work in an individualized way that begins when patients are diagnosed and follows patients throughout the process to help them maintain as much of the patient as possible. starting point as possible. Ancillary devices such as smart watches allow patients to be responsible and privacy in their own home.
"There is a tremendous opportunity to utilize 60 years of space medicine to establish a research program that optimizes the preparation for, tolerability and recovery from the diagnosis and treatment of cancer," the authors wrote.
The researchers said that in order for the countermeasure program to be viable, it would have to be cost-effective and provide the desired outcomes and benefits. But if it works, it could "change the landscape of cancer care and management".
"We really need to do a lot more research and a lot more work," Scott said. "But it is very promising that this NASA exercise framework can be applied to help the approximately 1 million people diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year, as well as the over 15 million cancer survivors in the United States today." .