A patient’s sex might impact on the efficacy of immunotherapy in cancer treatment, according to new a new study published in The Lancet Oncology.
Immunotherapy represents one of the most important advances in cancer treatment in the past decade. It is the standard treatment for some types of cancers, including melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer, and trials are ongoing into its effectiveness in the treatment of other cancers. While the findings do not imply a change in treatment guidelines for men or women, the authors say they should prompt further research to understand the mechanisms at play in order to improve treatments for all patients.
Additionally, the under-representation of female patients in clinical trials is a widely recognised problem. Indeed, in half of the trials in this study, women comprised less than a third of the overall population, meaning that individual trials likely cannot reliably show the interaction between sex and treatment efficacy.
The findings highlight the need for sex-specific analyses to avoid erroneously extending to women results that are obtained mainly in male patients, which may lead to poorer care, and potentially harm.
Previous studies have shown that men have an almost two-times higher risk of mortality from all cancers than women, likely as a result of behavioural and biological factors.