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Testosterone Helps To Recruit Adrenal Cancer-Fighting Immune Cells

Macrophages attacking adrenal tumor in male mouse.
Macrophages attacking adrenal tumor in male mouse. Credit: Julie Olade/ CNRS/GReD

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Why are cancers of the adrenal glands more common among women? Why are prognoses worse for them? A team of scientists led by a CNRS researcher answers these questions in an article published on 14 October 2022 in Science Advances.

They demonstrate that, in male mice, there is greater recruitment of immune cells known as macrophages, which can eliminate tumour cells. Hence, aggressive tumour progression is scarcely seen in male mice; while in female mice, macrophages do not slow the growth of tumours, which eventually metastasize.

Through molecular analyses, the team determined that recruitment of tumour-fighting macrophages depends on testosterone. After simple administration of the hormone to females, macrophages able to eradicate tumour cells were rallied to battle. On the basis of these findings, the scientists conducted another study using data on humans, which revealed the same difference in macrophage recruitment rates between men and women with adrenal cancers. 

This discovery suggests the potential of hormonal stimulation as a treatment for this type of cancer, whose five-year survival rate is less than 30%.

Reference: Wilmouth JJ, Olabe J, Garcia-Garcia D, et al. Sexually dimorphic activation of innate antitumor immunity prevents adrenocortical carcinoma development. Sci Adv. 2022;8(41):eadd0422. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.add0422

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