Research Indicates Sex Differences Affect Response to Cancer Treatment

For a long time, we’ve known that, at least in North America, men develop cancer at higher rates than women. However, there is still some mystery concerning the impact of gender on patient’s reactions to cancer treatment (for instance the efficacy and safety of different treatment regimes for different individuals).

That said, recent studies have shown that there are some unquestionable differences between the reactions of women and men.

Why? We’re not exactly sure. It may be due to hormonal differences, lifestyle factors, or varying levels of gene expression. Reactions might vary depending on the specific type of cancer as well. But, in the case of these reactions, the “why” isn’t an end all be all. Just knowing that there can be differences between the male and female response, means that we need to pay closer attention to treatment reactions. It may also change the way we establish treatment protocols for different patients.

Recent Research

A recent study evaluated esophagogastic cancer patient’s response to chemotherapy. Among 1,654 patients across the UK, women showed significantly higher rates of toxicities such as stomatitis, nausea, diarrhea, and alopecia.  However, men experienced peripheral neuropathy at a higher rate. The study didn’t show any survival differences between gender, but the different reactions to treatment were clear. This study was published in the Annals of Oncology.

Why it’s important

Ultimately, this research is important because with a greater understanding of how individuals react to treatment, we can provide more individualized care. For instance, we can more closely monitor women in order to catch things like toxicities earlier. It’s all about improving outcomes for individuals, and this research is helping us do just that.

There’s a lot we still don’t understand, and a lot more to examine. But this research shows that this study is an important one. Ultimately-

“Gender could play a more significant role in clinical trial development in the future to make more personalized treatment plans a reality.”

You can read more about this research here!


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