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Researchers Explain Why Brain Tumors Occur More Often In Males

Update Date: Aug 03, 2014 12:04 PM EDT

Researchers in a new study, have explained why brain tumors are more frequent in males and are more harmful than similar tumors in females. 

According to statistics, glioblastomas, the most common malignant brain tumors, are diagnosed twice as often in males, who suffer greater cognitive impairments than females and don't survive as long, the press release added. 

The research found that retinoblastoma protein (RB), a protein known to reduce cancer risk, is significantly less active in male brain cells than in female brain cells.

"This is the first time anyone ever has identified a sex-linked difference that affects tumor risk and is intrinsic to cells, and that's very exciting," said senior author Joshua Rubin, MD, PhD, in the press release. "These results suggest we need to go back and look at multiple pathways linked to cancer, checking for sex differences. Sex-based distinctions at the level of the cell may not only influence cancer risk but also the effectiveness of treatments."

Rubin also mentioned that RB, the target of drugs, is also being evaluated in clinical trials. According to trial organizers, the drugs trigger the protein's anti-tumor effects and help cancer patients survive longer. 

"In clinical trials, we typically examine data from male and female patients together, and that could be masking positive or negative responses that are limited to one sex," said Rubin, who is an associate professor of pediatrics, neurology and anatomy and neurobiology. "At the very least, we should think about analyzing data for males and females separately in clinical trials."

The study found that RB is more likely to be inactivated in male brain cells than in female brain cell. In the trials, when researchers disabled the RB protein in female brain cells, the cells were equally susceptible to becoming cancers. 

"There are other types of tumors that occur at different rates based on sex, such as some liver cancers, which occur more often in males," Rubin added in the press release. "Knowing more about why cancer rates differ between males and females will help us understand basic mechanisms in cancer, seek more effective therapies and perform more informative clinical trials."

The study is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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