Why are men more likely to die of glioblastoma? This study helps explain

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By Maggie Fox

Men are more likely to die of brain cancer than women and a new study helps explain why. Glioblastoma tumors are fundamentally different in men and women, the researchers found.

Different processes drive glioblastoma tumors in men and women, and they respond differently to treatment, Dr. Josh Rubin of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues showed. They believe the same may be true for other tumors, too, and say cancer researchers may need to go back to the drawing board when evaluating treatments for men versus women.

Dr. Josh Rubin, a neuro-oncologist at Washington University in St. Louis.Washington University

“We found that standard therapy is more effective in female compared with male patients with glioblastoma,” they wrote in their report, published in Science Translational Medicine.

Even more surprising: hormones have little to do with these differences.

Glioblastomas are a rare subtype of brain tumor. According to the American Cancer Society, just under 24,000 people were diagnosed with any kind of malignant brain tumor in 2018, including close to 14,000 men and 10,000 women. The survival rate for glioblastoma is low: 19 percent of adults aged up to 44 will live five years or more after a glioblastoma diagnosis, and only 5 percent for those over 55 will live that long.