A new study suggests that drugs which target the CD38 protein molecule may show promise against prostate cancer by ‘reawakening’ the body’s immune response against this tumour type.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research, London (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust discovered that patients whose immune cells within tumours displayed the CD38 protein molecule on their surface may have worse survival outcomes compared to those without.

In fact, the CD38 protein molecule appears to suppress the immune response of these patients, according to the researchers, and signals that prostate cancer is successfully evading the immune system.

The study suggests that CD38-targeting therapies, including Janssen’s multiple myeloma drug Darzalex (daratumumab), may therefore offer a promising new treatment type for prostate cancer patients.

Following the initial findings, researchers at ICR and the Royal Marsden are now initiating clinical trials to evaluate whether targeting the CD38 pathway can provide benefit for people with prostate cancer.

“As cancers develop, they often evolve the ability to evade the immune system so they can keep growing and spreading without being attacked,” said Paul Workman, chief executive of ICR.

“This new study suggests that in prostate cancer, tumours can suppress the immune system via the CD38 molecule on the surface of immune cells.

“The findings are exciting and open up a whole new potential approach to treating prostate cancer using immunotherapy – an approach that is now being tested in clinical trials which have the potential to show real benefit for patients,” he added.