Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity



First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID





School of Medical and Health Sciences




Cancer Research UK


Collier-Bain, H. D., Emery, A., Causer, A. J., Brown, F. F., Oliver, R., Dutton, D., . . . Campbell, J. P. (2024). A single bout of vigorous intensity exercise enhances the efficacy of rituximab against human chronic lymphocytic leukaemia b-cells ex vivo. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 118, 468-479.


Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is characterised by the clonal proliferation and accumulation of mature B-cells and is often treated with rituximab, an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody immunotherapy. Rituximab often fails to induce stringent disease eradication, due in part to failure of antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) which relies on natural killer (NK)-cells binding to rituximab-bound CD20 on B-cells. CLL cells are diffusely spread across lymphoid and other bodily tissues, and ADCC resistance in survival niches may be due to several factors including low NK-cell frequency and a suppressive stromal environment that promotes CLL cell survival. It is well established that exercise bouts induce a transient relocation of NK-cells and B-cells into peripheral blood, which could be harnessed to enhance the efficacy of rituximab in CLL by relocating both target and effector cells together with rituximab in blood. In this pilot study, n = 20 patients with treatment-naïve CLL completed a bout of cycling 15 % above anaerobic threshold for ∼ 30-minutes, with blood samples collected pre-, immediately post-, and 1-hour post-exercise. Flow cytometry revealed that exercise evoked a 254 % increase in effector (CD3−CD56+CD16+) NK-cells in blood, and a 67 % increase in CD5+CD19+CD20+ CLL cells in blood (all p < 0.005). NK-cells were isolated from blood samples pre-, and immediately post-exercise and incubated with primary isolated CLL cells with or without the presence of rituximab to determine specific lysis using a calcein-release assay. Rituximab-mediated cell lysis increased by 129 % following exercise (p < 0.001). Direct NK-cell lysis of CLL cells – independent of rituximab – was unchanged following exercise (p = 0.25). We conclude that exercise improved the efficacy of rituximab-mediated ADCC against autologous CLL cells ex vivo and propose that exercise should be explored as a means of enhancing clinical responses in patients receiving anti-CD20 immunotherapy.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.