Researchers from the University of Manchester have come up with a new way of protecting hair follicles from chemotherapy. This was in an effort to prevent hair loss that is caused by cancer treatments.
The new study describes how damage in the hair follicle caused by taxanes, cancer drugs which can cause permanent hair loss, can be prevented.
The researchers exploited the properties of a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors. The inhibitors block cell division and are already medically approved as so-called ‘targeted’ cancer therapies.
“In the beginning, this seemed illogical we found that CDK4/6 inhibitors can be used temporarily to halt cell division without promoting additional toxic effects in the hair follicle,” explained Dr Talveen Purba, lead author on the study.
“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,” he added.
Taxanes are very important anti-cancer drugs commonly used to treat, patients with breast or lung carcinoma. They particularly cause anxieties among breast cancer patients for the very distressing and sometimes long-lasting hair loss taxanes can induce.
Dr Purba said that the main part of the study was to understand how exactly hair follicles responded to taxmen chemotherapy.
“We discovered the specialized dividing cells at the base of the hair follicle that is vital for producing hair itself and the stem cells from which they arise. They are most vulnerable to taxanes. Therefore, we must protect these cells most from undesired chemotherapy effects, and so that cancer does not profit from it,” he noted.
Cancer patients globally have been waiting for breakthroughs in pharmacological hair loss prevention.
People have been shaving their hair and donating to wig makers in solidarity with cancer patients losing hair during treatment. The loss of hair causes physiological trauma and stigmatization.
Many cancer patients shave off their hair and wear wigs to cover the baldness of their heads and conceal their battle with the killer disease.