Men diagnosed with cancer have been proven to die more often and more quickly than women, which led researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri to find out why. Their conclusion was that very different processes are at work in brain cancer-causing tumors depending on the host's gender. Although the researchers focused on the relatively rare type of glioblastoma, they believe that other cancer types will be shown to work the same way.
The study, titled 'Brain tumors' battle of the sexes' and published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, shows that the role of gender in the development and treatment of this type of cancer goes far beyond hormones or lifestyle differences, which vary depending on a person's age and region of the world.
"We observed tremendous genetic sex differences in the tumors of glioblastoma patients that correlated with survival," said Jingqin "Rosy" Luo, one of the study’s researchers, suggesting that not only do the cancer cells develop differently in men than women, but that this fact was likely at the root of the terminal outcomes.
One of the other researchers, neuro-oncologist Dr. Josh Rubin, added to this conclusion in an interview with NBC News, saying that men and women are different from the moment sperm hits egg, as male blastocysts develop more rapidly as a result of chromosomal differences at the genetic level.
"The work that we have been doing would suggest that molecular mechanisms are just fundamentally different in males and females," he said.
Although neither sex has great rates of survival against glioblastoma – the cancer that killed Senator John McCain last year – understanding their differences could help doctors to develop more effective treatment strategies. As a result of their findings, the study's authors suggest implementing "personalized cancer treatment" methods, which involves DNA testing of patients' tumors.
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