CANCER patients losing their hair could be a thing of the past – thanks to a new breakthrough.
The findings will offer hope to millions who suffer, arguably, one of the most distressing side effects of treatment.
Scientists in Manchester have discovered how to protect the hair follicle during chemo.
They hope it will help prevent hair loss during treatment in future.
Prof Ralf Paus at Manchester University, said his team has found how chemo drugs called taxanes damage hair.
The drugs are typically used to treat breast cancer and lung cancer, which is why patients with these forms of the disease are more likely to lose their hair.
Now, the team believe a new type of cancer drug could provide the answer – reducing the toxic effects of the chemo drugs.
Dr Talveen Purba, the lead author of the study, said the treatments – known as CDK4/6 inhibitors – don’t damage hair follicles in the same way.
He said: “We found that CDK4/6 inhibitors can be used temporarily to halt cell division without promoting additional toxic effects in the hair follicle.
“When we bathed organ-cultured human scalp hair follicles in CDK4/6 inhibitors, the hair follicles were much less susceptible to the damaging effects of taxanes.”
… without stopping chemo blasting cancer
Dr Purba said at the crux of their findings is how taxanes affect the hair.
Their experiments showed that special cells at the base of the hair follicle that divide to produce the hair itself, were most vulnerable to taxanes.
“Therefore, we must protect these cells most from undesired chemotherapy effects,” he said.
But, he added in doing so it is vital not to stop the taxanes from blasting a patient’s cancer.
The team hope their work will help pave the way for creams or other medicines applied to the scalp that briefly suspend cell division in the scalp hair follicles of patients having chemo.
They said it could work alongside current approaches, like scalp cooling caps.
MORE ON CANCER
Dr Purba said much more research is desperately needed to make this a reality for cancer patients, who have waited so long to see real breakthroughs in hair loss prevention.
“Despite the fact that taxanes have been used in the clinic for decades, and have long been known to cause hair loss, we’re only now scratching the surface of how they damage the human hair follicle,” he said.
“We also don’t really know why some patients show greater hair loss than others even though they get the same drug and drug-dose, and why it is that certain chemotherapy regimens and drug combinations have much worse outcomes than others”
“We need time to further develop approaches like this to not only prevent hair loss, but promote hair follicle regeneration in patients who have already lost their hair due to chemotherapy.”