McMaster University

Child Health & Exercise
Medicine Program

Scope of Search

The BOOST Study

Using exercise to BOOST the immune system of children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) often have impaired immune function, which puts them at a higher risk of infection and relapse. Our research shows that 30 minutes of exercise is enough to boost Natural Killer (NK) cell activity in the blood of healthy kids. NK cells are special cells that find and kill infected or cancerous cells. In the BOOST study, we are seeing if exercise has the same benefits in children with ALL. By understanding the effects of exercise on the immune systems of children being treated for ALL, we hope to improve their health during therapy and beyond. This study is funded by the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario.


To do this, we are going to answer the following questions:

  • Is the exercise and activity monitoring feasible in patients with ALL?
  • What is the NK cell response to acute exercise in children with ALL during maintenance therapy and how does this change over the course of 3 months of therapy?
  • Does recent physical activity affect the NK cell response to exercise?


What does this study involve?

This study involves three separate exercise visits that take place after the participant’s regularly scheduled chemotherapy sessions. After chemotherapy, the participant exercises at a moderate intensity for 30-minutes on a stationary bicycle. The participant provides 3 small blood samples: before exercise, immediately after exercise and 1 hour after exercise. At the end of the visit, we give them a small device called an accelerometer to measure their physical activity over the following month, until their next visit.


Who is eligible to participate?

Our participants are boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 18 who are currently undergoing maintenance therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For this study, eligible participants are chosen by their attending oncologist at McMaster Children’s Hospital.


Who do I contact if I want to learn more?

If you have questions or want to learn more about this study, please contact Mila by e-mail at, or call 905-521-2100 ext. 75865.