Does gender impact the severity of side effects from mesothelioma treatment?
The answer, according to one study, is yes.
This is the news from a scientific study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The paper analyzed more than 23,000 cases across many types of cancer. There were 8,838 women in the study and 14,458 men in the study.
The result was a noticeable difference in treatment-related health events between men and women. According to the study, women were 34% more likely to experience a side effect or serious health event from chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a targeted therapy. Cancer treatment side effects ranged from common ones, such as nausea or high blood pressure, to more severe ones.
What does this data mean for people with mesothelioma, specifically women, considering treatment options?
More Comparisons Between Men and Women Receiving Cancer Treatment
The types of therapy analyzed were chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy, such as CAR T-cell therapy and virotherapy. Most of these involve administering therapy into the bloodstream, which can cause side effects.
Women were nearly 50% more likely than men to experience issues from immunotherapy. This data is especially important for people with mesothelioma, a rare cancer in the lining of the lungs or abdomen.
Immunotherapy for mesothelioma received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 2020. The FDA approved two drugs, Opdivo and Yervoy, as a first-line option when surgery isn’t possible.
Women with mesothelioma should still consider immunotherapy treatment. The survival length is around 18 months for most patients, and a promising percentage of people reach two- and three-year survival milestones thanks to immunotherapy. This type of treatment blocks cancer cell activity to aid the immune system, which becomes stronger in fighting cancer than before.
Why Do Women Experience More Side Effects?
The study did not find answers to why women have more side effects, but there are a few theories to consider.
First, women are more likely to acknowledge and report side effects to their doctor. The same is true about women reporting symptoms of cancer earlier, which leads to women usually being diagnosed quicker than men. The process for a mesothelioma diagnosis begins with patients reporting symptoms to their doctor.
Mesothelioma is an example of this fact. The average diagnosis age of women is between 50 and 60. Men are diagnosed on average between ages 60 and 70.
Women seem to respond to treatment better as well. Women have longer survival times – in part due to earlier diagnosis for women – as proven by the number of mesothelioma survivors who are women despite men making up 75% of cases.
A recent study showed side effects from immunotherapy lead to longer survival. This link is due to adverse effects being a sign of treatment working.
So while women may be cautious about starting chemotherapy, immunotherapy or a targeted novel therapy for their mesothelioma, there are positive takeaways from having more side effects.
Sources & Author
- Sex Differences in Risk of Severe Adverse Events in Patients Receiving Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, or Chemotherapy in Cancer Clinical Trials. Journal of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.21.02377. Accessed: 02/18/2022.
Sources & Author