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"Immunity and gender differences in cancer research (and beyond)" ~ blog by Dr. Antonio Giordano

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Immunity and gender differences in cancer research (and beyond)

The immune system functions differently for each sex, against many autoimmune and allergic diseases. Based on this knowledge, the scientific world works to clarify how and in which areas the X chromosome seems to give the women's immune system a greater reactivity and efficiency, thanks to some "mediators" such as interleukins.

It would seem that hormones influence the reactivity of the immune system, determining "gender" differences in the response to treatments (taking into account the different environmental factors and eating habits, which emerged in studies relating to the composition of the intestinal microbiome, that influences the activity of the immune system).

The responses to "insults" between men and women are very different, so in-depth studies will have to be conducted on the differences whose impact and scope are not yet known, also with regard to their application in new immunotherapy treatments, such as checkpoint inhibitors, immune systems, which in women express greater toxicity than in men.

The reason that many treatments and trials were conducted on “only men" was based on their ease of recruiting for clinical trials. However, a similar approach "does not take into account the biological differences between men and women", leading to the creation of solutions, treatments, and drugs based on "male physiological parameters" and, therefore, not very suitable for women.

The control of male physiological parameters does not consider, for example, the "risk" of damaging unexpected and not yet evident pregnancies and, therefore, the fetus. In reality, it has finally been concluded from many quarters that studying cancer and other diseases by taking into account the gender perspective would help to obtain better results.

The development of immunotherapy constitutes another challenge for gender medicine. Molecular cancer research certainly has many things to discover in this area. The same Iss document recalls that since the 1970s melanoma was more aggressive in men than in women.

Covid also showed us how the impact of the infection was less in women than in men. This may depend on biological and/or behavioral factors, but the fact remains that this "intuition" if supported by further studies and confirmations, could take us far.

This blog post by Dr. Antonio Giordano was first published in Fortune Italia, click here to read the original Italian post.

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