Nicholas Harman

First Advisor

Hayward, Reid

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Date Created



Cancer and its treatments, namely chemotherapy and radiation, lead to negative physiological consequences. Neutrophils are the most abundant leukocytes in circulation with several studies pointing to the impact of cancer and its treatments lowering the count and function of this cell line. Exercise has been shown to positively impact to neutrophil count and function in the generally healthy population. However, this effect is less understood in the cancer population. The purpose of this study was to quantify and characterize neutrophil populations in cancer patients and examine the effects of a prescribed exercise intervention on neutrophil count and neutrophil function. It was hypothesized that cancer patients completing a 12-week individualized and prescribed exercise intervention would have an increased absolute neutrophil count. It was also hypothesized that neutrophils from cancer patients completing an individualized and prescribed exercise intervention would demonstrate enhanced oxidative burst activity. Participants (N = 24) were recruited by physician referral. Participants were grouped based on treatment status (in-treatment [IT] or post-treatment [PT]) and performed low to moderate intensity exercise over a 12-week period. Blood was collected from each participant after the initial visit and intervention. Neutrophils were isolated from blood by magnetic separation. Isolated cells were characterized and quantified via flow cytometry to quantify absolute neutrophil count (ANC). Neutrophils were induced to activate via N-formylmethionine-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP). After 45 minutes, cell membrane expression of rhodamine-123 was measured via flow cytometry to assess the rate of oxidation from rest. Neutrophils were measured for functional capacity over a 48-hour period. After 24 and 48 hours, neutrophils were assessed via flow cytometry for CD16 brightness as a surrogate for functional capacity. Absolute neutrophil count (was significantly improved in both IT (0.71 ± 0.38 to 0.96 ± 0.52 K cells/µl; p = .05) and PT (0.52 ± 0.32 to 0.90 ± 0.51 K cells/µl; p < .05). Neutrophil function was not significantly changed in IT, but PT saw significant improvement to neutrophil function (80.35 ± 65.54% to 167.16 ± 121.28%; p = .05). There was no change to neutrophil functional capacity in the IT group. There was no change to neutrophil functional capacity in either IT or PT after 24 and 48 hours. Neutrophil functional capacity significantly decreased from baseline 48 hours after the intervention period in the PT group (p < .05). A 12-week individualized and prescribed exercise intervention could significantly increase ANC of cancer patients both during treatment and after treatment. Exercise also increased the function of neutrophils in a post-treatment population of cancer patients while maintaining function of neutrophils in an in-treatment population.


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