Advances in personalized and precision cancer medicine lie in understanding gender and sex

The Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) and biopharmaceutical company MSDbrought together leading experts in this field at the XIV Seminar for Journalists to offer a vision for Diversity and Cancer, and to address, among other things, gender differences in this pathology. During the workshop introduction, the president of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), Enriqueta Felipe, assured that “sex and gender influence and condition not only the onset, development and treatment of the disease, but also exposure to risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol, so it is very important to take these differences into account when adapting strategies for cancer prevention and screening.

In addition, and in another vein, Dr. Felipe pointed to the need for women to occupy more management positions, both academic and research or management in the health system.

Regarding advances in cancer treatment, Enriqueta Felipe, insisted that we have shared the changes, “but there is still a long way to go, although we should also highlight developments such as immunotherapy.” In this sense, he thanked biopharmaceutical company MSD for its support and work to achieve new therapies to advance the best treatments for patients.

The Executive Director of the Oncology Department of MSD Spain, Felix del Valle, stated during the presentation of this seminar that his company has been working on international research for one hundred years and fifty years in Spain. «We strive to advance therapies and the evolution of new treatments thereby improving people’s quality of life. In the middle of the topic of this workshop, he announced that his company celebrated Diversity and Inclusion Month. “We need to focus on diversity and cancer, we need to continue in this line of work,” he assured.

And that is, to advance on the path of Personalized and precision medicineone of the keys lies in understanding that both sex and gender carry great weight, as genetic, epigenetic, and hormonal causes condition disease according to biological sex, while social constructions of gender can condition physician-patient interactions.

The variety This should also be an important factor in the composition of research teams and is an aspect in which there is still a long way to go to achieve a greater presence of women in leadership positions and in relevant positions in the field of oncology in Spain.

Gender gap in research

The first of the panel discussions focused on whether there is real diversity among the research teams. And that is that women are generally underrepresented, both in basic scientific research and at higher levels of decision-making. “Actually only the 33% of researchers are womendespite the fact that they represent between 45% and 55% of students and masters and 44% of those enrolled in doctoral programs. Remarkable fact: women awarded the Nobel Prize in scientific fields represent only 6%3 ”, warned Dr. Enriqueta Felipe, who revealed that, on the contrary, in the last 10 years, more women medical oncologists than men More specifically, 126 women (51.6%) benefited from SEOM cancer research grants compared to 118 men (48.4%).

Dr. Rosario Perona pointed out that “one of the objectives of the modification of the Science Law published last September is to help alleviate the research inequalities that still persist in the Spanish science and technology system, such as the attraction of female talent to research and innovation, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; retaining and supporting the professional development of female researchers so that they do not abandon their scientific careers and advance at the same speed as their fellow researchers, thereby achieving the presence of at least one 40% of women in all areas of the System.

“Also, institutional transformation to ensure an egalitarian, diverse and inclusive environment wherever science is done and innovated that is free from discrimination, gender bias, sexist behavior and sexual or gender-based harassment; o the integration of the gender dimension in the projects of R+D+I and sex/gender analysis in its content“.

“It is important that the actions of the agents of the System are consistent with the principles of composition and a balanced presence between women and men, so that in the group to which they belong applies, people of either sex do not exceed 60% and not less than 40%. The participation of associates in the selection or evaluation processes, if it is one person, will be of the underrepresented gender in the selection or evaluation body”.

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