Sex dimorphism in response to targeted therapy and immunotherapy in non-small cell lung cancer patients: a narrative review

Yingbo Huang, Hyeong Joo Cho, Barbara E. Stranger, R. Stephanie Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background and Objective: Multiple agents have been developed for treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, patients’ response to these therapies vary drastically, which indicates a need to tailor therapy. Sex is a readily usable clinical characteristic that has been shown to impact patients’ response to drugs. The main objective of this narrative review is to summarize the current state of knowledge, compiled from meta-analyses, on sex differences in treatment efficacy for targeted therapy and immunotherapy in NSCLC. We discuss the interplay of patient characteristics, both molecular and demographic, with sex on how they impact therapeutic response. Methods: PubMed search was performed with the term “sex/gender differences” with currently FDA approved targeting therapy and immunotherapy agents in treating NSCLC. Key Content and Findings: For targeted therapy, women tend to benefit more in terms of progression-free survival upon receiving first-generation anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) treatment than men. On the other hand, there is an ongoing debate on sex differences in response to immunotherapy. Although preliminary, whether sex differences were observed depends on treatment settings, patient characteristics, and molecular features. Importantly, incorporating sex as a biological component in the biomarker discovery seems to reveal novel insights in immunotherapy response. Conclusions: Taken together, sex differences in responding to standard care have been observed in clinical settings for NSCLC patients. A better understanding of sex-associated treatment response and the underlying biology will improve cancer prognosis and eliminate these sex differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)920-934
Number of pages15
JournalTranslational Lung Cancer Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Sex dimorphism
  • epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)
  • immune checkpoint blockade (ICB)
  • immunotherapy
  • non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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