Most cancer patients have a ‘depressed’ immune system because the disease ‘weakens’ their immune system. To address this problem, scientists have developed immune boosting therapies called cancer immunotherapies. Another name for using the immune system to fight cancer is immuno-oncology (IO). In contrast to other cancer treatments, IO therapies strengthen the patient’s own immune response so it can better detect and aggressively fight cancer cells. In doing so, the patient’s own immune system slows the growth or kills the cancer.
There are a variety of immunotherapies used to treat prostate cancer, examples of which are monoclonal antibodies, adoptive T cell therapies, immune checkpoint inhibitors, vaccines, and non-specific immunotherapies. Many of these immunotherapies are accessible in clinical trials. The goal of these immunotherapies is to educate an individual’s immune system and/or increase the available numbers of immune cells to fight prostate cancer. Many of these therapies can also be used in combination with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy to enhance their effectiveness.