Immunotherapy More Effective in Men: Study

Women with metastatic cancer who were treated with a checkpoint inhibitor had a smaller benefit than did men.

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Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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ISTOCK, MIRROR-IMAGESWomen given an immune checkpoint inhibitor to treat advanced cancer benefitted less from the drugs than men did, according to a meta-analysis of clinical trials involving more than 11,000 patients published this week (May 16) in The Lancet Oncology.

“Future research should guarantee greater inclusion of women in trials and focus on improving the effectiveness of immunotherapies in women, perhaps exploring different immunotherapeutic approaches in men and women,” the authors write in the study.

Checkpoint inhibitors work by taking the brakes off immune responses, and are known to improve the outcomes of patients with metastatic cancers. To see if checkpoint inhibitors affect men and women differently, the researchers collected the results of 20 clinical trials involving any of four of the drugs given to patients with either melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, urothelial cancer, head and neck cancer, or lung cancer.

While the immunotherapies boosted the chances...

“[C]aution needs to be exercised before jumping directly to radical conclusions and before changing the current standard of care among approved indications for immune checkpoint inhibitors,” writes Omar Abdel-Rahman of Ain Shams University in an accompanying commentary. “Female patients who are otherwise indicated for treatment with any immune checkpoint inhibitor should not be denied treatment solely on the basis of these findings.”

See “Researchers Getting Smarter About Pairing Cancer Treatments”

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