David Bartlett, PhD

Faculty Member, Duke Molecular Physiology Institute


Assistant Professor in Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, Duke University Medical Center


Carmichael Building

919 684 0622



David Bartlett is an Assistant Professor in Medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology atDuke University Medical Center . He earned his PhD in Immunology from the University of Birmingham, England where he specialized in the effects of exercise and lifestyles on immune function and systemic inflammation in the elderly. He was awarded a coveted Marie Curie Outgoing Fellowship from the European Union which brought him to Duke under the guidance of William Kraus, MD where he assessed the immunological and physiological responses of exercise training in patients with prediabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. His laboratory studies the effects of exercise and energy balance on immune function and physiology of patient groups including cancer, arthritis and diabetes. His research program is focused on human studies employing a wide range of techniques including human physiological testing such as cardiopulmonary fitness assessment, exercise training to in vitro and ex vivo cellular assays.


BSc, Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, UK
PhD, University of Birmingham, England, UK

The Bartlett lab is involved in a number of multi-disciplinary collaborative research studies

Cancer: With the development of checkpoint inhibitors which overcome cancers defense against immune attack; increasing tumor cytotoxicity and enhancing survival, it is the goal of the Bartlett lab to understand how exercise training and energy balance might be synergistic with checkpoint therapy. Treatment regimens and longer survival are increasing the risk of secondary inflammatory disease in many cancer survivors. We are interested in how exercise training might improve the immune system and physiological fitness of patients and reduce the risk of secondary inflammatory diseases in survivors. Treatments for cancer can have profound effects on physiology and significantly reduce the quality of life of patients. We are trying to determine what the effect of prehabilitation exercise and dietary programs on immune and inflammatory functions as well as quality of life in patients preparing to undergo cancer treatment.

Arthritis: Arthritis is a debilitating inflammatory disease if left untreated. Current pharmaceuticals have significantly reduced the severity of disease. However, treatments are expensive and patients with arthritis are still at increased risk of inflammatory disease including cardiovascular disease. Exercise is tolerable but difficult for many patients with arthritis. The Bartlett lab is currently assessing the effects of a novel, highly tolerable exercise paradigm which is rapidly improving cardiorespiratory fitness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is the aim of this study to determine physiological and anti-inflammatory benefits associated with the program and determine how this impacts disease activity in arthritis.

Aging: With advanced age, there is a profound effect observed in the immune compartment. Specifically, the immune system becomes dysregulated (immunesenescence) to the extent that systemic inflammation and risk of infections are elevated. We have previously shown that participation in regular daily physical activity is associated with better innate immune function when compared to those who do not participate in physical activity. Our data suggests that perhaps immunesenescence is in part due to physical inactivity rather than specifically aging. The Bartlett lab is focused on understanding the molecular underpinnings of exercise on the aging immune system. It is our aim to understand how the effects of physical inactivity and aging on the immune system might be reversed/rescued.