Move Me Monday Storyteller - Dr. Lee Jones
We are very excited to pledge all December Beats to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) – the world’s oldest and largest private institution devoted to prevention, patient care, research and education in cancer. While our little movers helped support MSK and The Lee Jones Lab through our Kicking Cancer initiative it’s now your turn to help us bring the fight to cancer through #MoveMeMonday.
It is our great honor to share insight from Dr. Jones and help make a difference together:
I have always been interested in the intersection between sports and human biology / physiology. Growing up in Northern England, I was, of course, a soccer player but through playing soccer I became fascinated about how the body works, especially how it works during sports and exercise - this is essentially the field of exercise physiology / science. My career as a soccer player didn't quite work out so decided that I was going to study sports / exercise physiology. I became very interested in the application of exercise to help individuals recovering from heart attacks- in this vain, essentially using exercise as a treatment for chronic disease - this is the field of clinical exercise science.
There are literally hundreds of studies investigating the role of exercise in the prevention and treatment of the most common chronic diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and various respiratory conditions - in these diseases, exercise is often viewed as the 'go to' treatment and has been demonstrated to not only improve quality of life but the quantity of life as well.
However, when I started my PhD it became clear that really no-one was investigating whether the benefits of exercise extended to individuals with cancer. At the time, back in 1998, talking about exercise and cancer in the same sentence seemed ridiculous! There was a prevailing dogma that cancer patients can't exercise, they are too sick, and can't tolerate exercise....in fact the major advice for individuals with cancer was the opposite. However, it seemed like there were many parallels between some of the side-effects that cancer patients were experiencing with those experienced by other individuals with different chronic diseases. As such, we started investigating the fitness levels of individuals with various types of cancers, both during and following treatment, as well as conducting some of the first studies examining whether cancer patients could tolerate exercise.
The initial results were very encouraging and the response from the patients, physicians, as well as family members was incredible. During this time, I completed my graduate training and moved to Duke University to start my own laboratory and program of research. I became more and more interested in how something like exercise may not only help individuals prepare for, tolerate, or recover from their treatment but also how it may impact the biology of the cancer itself. We started to approach the testing of exercise just like a new drug addressing questions such as: How much exercise do you need to do? How does exercise work? When is the best time to exercise following a cancer diagnosis? At Duke, we had a number of studies on the go, with anywhere from 30 to 50 patients on clinical exercise studies at any one time - the feedback from patients was incredible.
The potential importance of this work, however, did not really hit home until my father was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in the UK (he was 70 at the time). My mum called my one morning and I remember going numb. We quickly got his conventional treatment plan established - hormone therapy and radiation then it was onto his additional treatment plan - exercise. He was always active, but not really a regular exerciser. I put together a pretty intensive program for him consisting of walking / running 3 to 4 days a week (despite a hip replacement) as well as resistance training. He went at it. He just turned 75 and he is running 3 days a week and doing his weights whenever he can - he feels great and his PSA is 0. What resonates with me the most about this is that every time he goes to exercise, he tells my mum he's going to get his treatment. That's the way that I think about it as well - I want to prove through rigorous research that exercise is as powerful as any standard medication and make it part of the std of care for all persons diagnosed with cancer, just like it is for persons diagnosed with a heart attack. Exercise is both my profession and passion.....as it’s my treatment for my dad, it is also my treatment - treatment for general health, for stress, for sleep, for energy....you would not go a day without food or sleep, exercise to me is as important as these.
I have since moved to NYC and joined MSK - in my opinion, the best cancer institute on the planet. While our understanding of the power of exercise has come a long long way in the past decade we’re just scratching the surface. It’s an extremely exciting time and I look forward to finding further discoveries in this area. I believe it is going to play a critical role in the future prevention and treatment of cancer.
To learn more about The Lee Jones Lab please follow this link:https://www.mskcc.org/research-areas/labs/lee-jones
Thank you to Laura & Chris Tarui for sponsoring this week!
We appreciate your continued support and we hope you’ll “Move” with the ones you love this holiday season!