Lower survival for women than men with germ cell tumours

Women who suffer from the ovarian cancer known as germ cell tumours have a worse prognosis than men with the corresponding tumours, i.e. testicular cancer. After five years with the disease, 98 per cent of men were alive, but survival for women was only 85 per cent. This is shown in a new study from IGP and Uppsala University Hospital published in the journal Journal of Internal Medicine.

“Our review shows that there is room to improve the prognosis and minimize long-term side effects in women with germ cell tumours from the ovaries, by using treatment strategies used in testicular cancer, says the study’s first author Camilla Sköld, specialist in gynecological cancer at Uppsala University Hospital and researcher at IGP.

Every year, around 300 men are affected by a type of testicular cancer called germ cell tumours. The female equivalent is ovarian cancer which is much rarer, affecting about 14 people (out of a total of about 700 cases of ovarian cancer). Both diseases mainly affect young patients. Among women under 30, it is the most common type of ovarian cancer.

“Biologically, both tumour diseases start from the same type of immature germ cells. Since many more people are affected by testicular cancer, and therefore there is more research in the field, we wanted to see if it would be possible to apply that knowledge to improve the treatment of women with the significantly rarer germ cell tumours from the ovary,” says Ingrid Glimelius, professor at IGP and senior consultant at Uppsala University Hospital, and lead author of the study.

The researchers have compared treatment guidelines and prognosis for women and men with germ cell tumours in the ovary and testicle. In the study, they compared the survival of 7,663 patients diagnosed with testicular cancer in the years 1995–2022 with the survival of 293 women diagnosed with ovarian germ cell tumours in the years 1990–2018. They found that the five-year survival rate was 98.2 percent in men, compared to only 85.2 percent in women.

“We present an overview of the epidemiological, tumour biological and clinical guidelines that exist regarding testicular cancer, and then propose measures to improve research and care of patients with germ cell tumours of the ovary based on this. We believe that you can both improve survival and reduce the risk of side effects from the treatment by gathering patients with these unusual tumours in fewer hospitals,” says Camilla Sköld. “The survival differences may partly also be due to underlying tumour biology differences between the two tumour types, and further comparative studies of tumour biology would therefore be valuable.”


The article in Journal of Internal Medicine

Camilla Sköld's and Ingrid Glimelius' research

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