Laughter may be effective in improving cancer patients’ immune functions, according to a study by a team of researchers from the Osaka International Cancer Institute.

The study was conducted with the cooperation of Osaka-based entertainment agencies Shochiku Geino, Beicho Co. and Yoshimoto Kogyo Co.

Comedians from these agencies performed rakugo sit-down comedy shows and manzai two-person comedy routines for patients participating in the study at a hospital. They included veteran rakugo performer Katsura Bunshi and popular manzai duo All Hanshin Kyojin.

In the study, which started in May last year, 70 cancer patients seeing doctors were divided into three groups.

According to the researchers, natural killer cells, which attack cancer cells, increased for a group of patients who watched the comedy shows four times in May and June of last year.

These patients also saw improvements in their ability to generate interleukin 12B, a kind of protein that subdues cancer.

A quality of life questionnaire found that the patients gained relief from pain and experienced improvements in terms of nervousness, depression, anger and vigor.

“We could show that laughing allows patients to get relief from sufferings, even if only slightly,” said Nariaki Matsuura, president of the research institute.”It will likely take a long time before this finding can be utilized in treatment, but I have hope for the distant future.”