Women May Have Higher Risk Than Men of Adverse Effects From Immunotherapy

By Lou Portero - Last Updated: September 24, 2021

A recent study highlighted during the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2021 meeting, showed that immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors were reported more frequently in females than in males. According to the study, the likely drivers for the disparity between sexes in irAEs are the well-documented biological differences in a woman’s immune system reactions, with women tending to have stronger immune responses than men, regardless of age and ethnicity.

The multi-center prospective study is conducted by the Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy; Karolinska University Hospital, Solna, Sweden; St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland; and Oslo University Hospital, Norway and is scheduled to conclude in 2023.

The study also reveals that the initial results are encouraging for personalizing immunotherapy. “The results are a more general indication that immunotherapy selection in the future should take into account not only the type of cancer but also the sex of the patient,” said Dr. Berna Özdemir, a member of the ESMO Gender Medicine Task Force. “Women may benefit more from other agents that modulate the immune system, alone or in combination with other therapies, whereas men appear to respond better than women to the current checkpoint inhibitors.”

Results of this data demonstrate the need to redesign clinical trials to factor in patient sex and gender differences.

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