Rats to you … a critical ADT research finding

Sometimes there is a piece of research published that provides truly astonishing data for members of the prostate cancer community. The following report is NOT one of these — unless you are a laboratory rat or can appreciate the potential implications for professional, long-distance cyclists.

According to an article from a Brazilian research team, they wanted to “verify the effect of bilateral orchiectomy on physical performance.” For those of you who aren’t quite sure what that means … They wanted to see if castration affected physical capacity (presumably other than the ability to have an erection).

So they picked 16 perfectly healthy lab rats and divided them into two groups. We understand that the rats did not volunteer for this particular study!

The 5 rats in Group 1 (luckily for them) were given only a “mock” operation (a skin incision and sutures). The 11 rats in Group 2 (who are currently consulting their lawyers) were given a bilateral orchiectomy (along with the initial skin incision and the concluding sutures, we hope). After a period for recovery from surgery (not actually specified, but assumed by the current writer), all 16 rats were run on a treadmill at a speed of 20 m/min (about 0.75 miles/h) until they were “fatigued.” At that point the experiment was stopped. How did the research team know the rats were “fatigued”? They knew because the rats fell at least once. (They may have fallen more than once. It’s not entirely clear from the abstract.)

The results of this experiment are as follows:

  • The 11 castrated rats ran for an average of 100± 44 min (that’s about 2 hours) and weighed 359 ± 38 g (after running, we think).
  • The 5 control rats ran for an average of 81 ± 40 min and weighed 327 ± 25 g (again, we assume, after running).
  • There was no statistically significant difference between average times run by the two groups of rats or the average weights of the rats in the two groups after exercise.

The authors conclude that, “Bilateral orchiectomy does not affect the physical performance of the rat.”

Now first of all, we understand that the rats have got together and will be submitting their own report on this study. In the first draft of their report, we note their (very accurate) statement that there is a clear trend toward lower physical performance and loss of weight in the group of rats that did not receive a bilateral orchiectomy. They further note that this could be  resolved in a larger study, and they suggest that this study be carried out using carefully selected and laboratory-bred, Brazilian research biologists. They estimate that with about 83 biologists in each arm of the study, it will have sufficient statistical power.

Secondly, we think it is only fair to the rats to point out that the study they are suggesting would, in fact, be of far greater relevance to the clinical management of men with prostate cancer than the original rat study.

Finally, we have seen a comment circulating on one of the underground rat blogs pointing out that while no one is quite sure whether the physical impact of castration is relevant to men (or rats) being treated for prostate cancer, Lance Armstrong has already clearly demonstrated that it does not have to be relevant to men who need treatment for testicular cancer. In fact, the possible implication of this study is that all Tour de France cyclists should be castrated, thereby slightly increasing their physical capacity. Such a suggestion might help to alleviate the risk of drug abuse by Tour de France participants and might also just make riding a bike for 8 hours a day more comfortable anyway!

4 Responses

  1. This was published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, October, 2010, Vol. LV, issue III, pp. 11-13 and 26-29.

  2. I had RALP 1 year ago. I also happen to be a world class age group athlete. I have been dreading the day I might have to have ADT and give up my triathlons. Even though this article was written tongue-in-cheek, it was very interesting to me. Is there any explanation for the findings? It seems counter-intuitive to me.

  3. Dear Bob:

    I really don’t think we should read anything into this study that is relevant to humans. It is way too small and it is in rats. My tongue was actually poking through my cheek.

    Now … if we could just recruit the necessary 166 Brazilian research biologists and find a cooperative surgeon …

  4. Wouldn’t want to get serious about this — but it may be very important to take into account time after castration. My experience with chemical castration was that I had good energy after first starting Zoladex. Six months after starting, I was actually lap swimming faster than I ever had. (Perhaps I had something in common with the rats there.) However, after 4 years of intermittent therapy, my physical strength had greatly declined.

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