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It's just that kind of early-warning leverage that cancer doctors are starting to exploit. Their latest strategies take advantage of the fact that some cancers actually show a gender preference. Women who smoke, for example, are three times as likely to develop lung cancer as men who light up, and scientists at Cell Therapeutics found to their surprise that the reason for the difference was estrogen. In the presence of that hormone, which circulates in higher levels in women, lung cells are exposed to more of the carcinogens in cigarette smoke. Harnessing estrogen's ability to speed up some metabolic processes, the scientists piggybacked a potent chemotherapy agent onto a commonly circulating protein, hoping that the presence of estrogen around the lung tumors would also accelerate the cells' ability to open up to the cancer-killing drug. Sure enough, in early studies, women taking the drug who had naturally higher estrogen levels lived longer after their lung-cancer diagnosis than women on the same treatment with lower estrogen levels or men whose disease was diagnosed at the same time. "It's clearly the cutting edge," says Dr. James Bianco, president of Cell Therapeutics. And just the type of thinking that will push medicine to its next frontier.