When it comes to brain tumors, a patient’s sex matters

Joshua Rubin, professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis


Have you ever wondered why, in most species, males are larger and more ornamented than females? It’s an evolutionarily determined aspect of biology, but what does it mean for human health and disease? What are the implications of needing one chart to describe normal growth in boys, and another to describe normal growth in girls? Why are there two normals for growth, and does it matter for a disease of growth like cancer?

I’m a pediatric brain tumor doctor and scientist and am interested in developing new treatments for glioblastoma (GBM) and other malignant brain tumors. Glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor and killed the late Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy, and Beau Biden III, the eldest child of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

In this new year, about 22,000 Americans will develop glioblastoma, and nearly the same number will die from it. While GBM occurs in both males and females, we can reliably predict that of the 22,000 new cases, 8,500 will be in females while the remaining 13,500 cases will be in males. Moreover, the female GBM patients can be expected to survive about six months longer than the male patients, on average.

Read the full piece in The Conversation.

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