Comprehensive Characterization of Molecular Differences in Cancer between Male and Female Patients

Cancer Cell. 2016 May 9;29(5):711-722. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2016.04.001.


An individual's sex has been long recognized as a key factor affecting cancer incidence, prognosis, and treatment responses. However, the molecular basis for sex disparities in cancer remains poorly understood. We performed a comprehensive analysis of molecular differences between male and female patients in 13 cancer types of The Cancer Genome Atlas and revealed two sex-effect groups associated with distinct incidence and mortality profiles. One group contains a small number of sex-affected genes, whereas the other shows much more extensive sex-biased molecular signatures. Importantly, 53% of clinically actionable genes (60/114) show sex-biased signatures. Our study provides a systematic molecular-level understanding of sex effects in diverse cancers and suggests a pressing need to develop sex-specific therapeutic strategies in certain cancer types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • DNA Methylation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / classification
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Sex Factors


  • MicroRNAs