The immune system plays an important role in controlling cancer growth. However, cancers evolve to evade immune detection. Immune tolerance and active immune suppression results in unchecked cancer growth and progression. A major contributor to immune tolerance is the tumor physiologic microenvironment, which includes hypoxia, hypoglucosis, lactosis, and reduced pH. Preclinical and human studies suggest that exercise elicits mobilization of leukocytes into circulation (also known as "exercise-induced leukocytosis"), especially cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells. However, the tumor physiologic microenvironment presents a significant barrier for these cells to enter the tumor and, once there, properly function. We hypothesize that the effect of exercise on the immune system's ability to control cancer growth is linked to how exercise affects the tumor physiologic microenvironment. Normalization of the microenvironment by exercise may promote more efficient innate and adaptive immunity within the tumor. This review summarizes the current literature supporting this hypothesis.
©2019 American Association for Cancer Research.