Delineating strong sex-effect cancers may give practitioners an additional tool and “is on the continuum of our efforts to develop personalized cancer therapy,” said Dr. Weber. “The study shows that there are genetic differences between some of the same cancers in males versus females, and you should account for this as you develop personalized therapy. Simply stated, the drug you give to a male for the same cancer as a female may not produce the same outcome.”
Understanding the genetic basis for cancer also gives practitioners the benefits of enhanced information and context when consulting medical literature on thyroid and head and neck cancers. It will bolster their ability to spot “targets of opportunity,” said Dr. Weber, an approach that is already being successfully used in many cancer treatments. “We have immunotherapy opportunities where we can reverse the immunosuppressive effects of tumors and increase the activity of the immune response to the presence of a tumor, and we have drugs that can target processes that can drive cancer progression,” he added.
This study is a stone in the pathway to providing an ultra-targeted clinical treatment for each type of cancer affecting each individual person. “One of the important things about going in this direction, especially regarding sex differences, is that these treatments are really, really expensive,” said Dr. Weber. “And, until we have a method or assay to inform us as to who might respond and who might not, we give these expensive drugs to 100 patients in hopes that it might work for a third of them. With predictive molecular analysis, and analysis of response to a treatment, we can give patients the right drug at the right time for the right reason. This is really what precision medicine is about.”