last updated April 2013
Thank you for not smoking
Gender differences in the frequency of a cancer-associated mutation among Chinese patients may arise from differences in smoking behavior
Patients diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma, the most common of all lung cancers, can often benefit from treatment with drugs such as Iressa and Tarceva, which inhibit certain signaling enzymes known as kinases.
These compounds are most effective in patients with mutations in the gene encoding one particular kinase, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Previous studies have suggested that females in general, and males and females who have never smoked are especially likely to acquire such EGFR mutations, but new findings from a team led by Hong-bin Ji at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences suggest that for some populations, this gender effect may simply be an artifact of lifestyle differences1.
Chinese women are considerably less likely to smoke than their male counterparts, a trend that Ji and co-workers clearly observed in their analysis of adenocarcinoma tissue samples from 224 Chinese patients. When they independently considered only those individuals who had never smoked, they were surprised to note that EGFR mutations occurred with essentially the same frequency among both women and men (76.85% versus 70.97%). These findings suggest that a history of smoking is a more important consideration than gender in determining whether Chinese patients diagnosed with adenocarcinoma are likely to benefit from kinase inhibitor treatment.