New Study Shows Male Sex Hormones Are New Targets For Cancer Immunotherapy

By Stephen M

Cancers resulting from non-productive organs, including liver and bladder cancer, have been found to be inconsistent in how they occur, develop, survive, and respond to treatment depending on gender. Male patients are found to be the most susceptible to these cancers and suffer the worse prognoses and consequences.

A study published in Science Immunology saw scientists examine the differences between the intratumoral immune responses of the male and female cancers in non-productive organs. Scientists from the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology (PIIO) at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC—James) led the study.

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It focused on the immune response of the T cell to malignancy, which is critical in determining cancer outcomes. It is also a critical contributor to the resurgence of cancer immunotherapy. The study made a breakthrough finding which explained how the male sex hormones through the CD8+ T cells contribute to the high cancer risks based on sex. CD8+ T cells also known as the “killer cells” are responsible for triggering adaptive immunity critical for initiating an anti-tumor response.

The corresponding senior author of the study, Dr. Zihai Li, indicated that “the findings highlight androgen-mediated promotion of CD8+ T cell dysfunction in cancer and suggest broader implications for therapeutic development to address sex disparities in health and disease.” Dr. Li is also a cancer immunologist, medical oncologist, and founding director of the PIIO at OSUCCC—James.

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Li who is also a professor at the Ohio State College of Medicine said “androgen-mediated promotion of CD8+ T cell dysfunction results in faster tumor growth and worsened outcomes, and targeting of this signaling cascade holds a crucial key to improving current cancer immunotherapies.” The androgen hormone is very high in males.