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Erik Hanson

Assistant Professor
Exercise and Sports Science
UNC-Chapel Hill
Cancer Prevention and Control

Areas of Interest

My current research focuses on enhancing physical function and quality of life in individuals diagnosed with cancer. Specifically, my laboratory group is exploring the role of physical exercise training on the alleviation of anti-cancer treatment-related side effects. My initial work has been examining changes in muscle mass and function during androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer. Preliminary studies in these patients reported beneficial effects of exercise but only modest improvements were reported, likely due to conservative training approaches (Hanson & Hurley, 2011). Our group contributed significantly to the field by publishing two high impact exercise oncology papers using vigorous exercise that produced gains in lean mass, strength, and function (Hanson et al. 2013) and stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (Hanson et al. 2017) that was similar to healthy men. These findings indicate that men on ADT have the excellent capacity to respond provided that the exercise dose and intensity are sufficient. I am currently the PI on a home- based exercise intervention during metastatic prostate cancer treatment to increase accessibility to exercise in an understudied population that may benefit significantly from this type of program.

A second area of research is incorporating blood biomarkers and immune function in cancer survivors. Exercise consistently improves cardiorespiratory function, body composition, and muscle strength. The effects of exercise on hormones and immune function are less clear, with both being critical regulators of the inflammatory response and affecting cancer recurrence. Recently, we demonstrated that prostate cancer patients have altered stress hormone responses to acute exercise (Hanson et al. 2018), which has implications on designing interventions that reduce the cancer-related side effects while limiting chronic inflammation and potential immunosuppression.

Find publications on PubMed