Skip to main content

18th September 2019

UoM scientists’ breakthrough for cancer hair-loss

Research into cancer at The University of Manchester has led scientists to a new discovery in preventing chemo-induced hair-loss
UoM scientists’ breakthrough for cancer hair-loss
Photo: Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez @ U.S. Air Force

Hair-loss during chemotherapy for cancer patients could soon become a thing of the past, thanks to new breakthrough research at The University of Manchester.

Scientists from the Centre for Dermatology Research, based in Manchester, have been working on reducing arguably one of the most psychological source of distress in cancer therapy – induced hair-loss.

Taxanes, substances that widely used as chemotherapy agents in treating patients with lung or breast carcinoma, are believed to induce hair-loss as a powerful side-effect.

Research conducted by Doctor Talveen Purba and his colleagues, is believed to have found a way to prevent hair follicles from being damaged by the chemical taxanes, in the process of treating the malign formation in the body.

As the scientists explained in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, they have explored the proprieties of CDK4/6 inhibitors – a new class of drug. These are presumed to block cell division and are medically approved as being the future in chemotherapy.

The lead coordinator of the study, Dr Talveen Purba stated that even though it might seem counter-intuitive at first, they found that “DK4/6 inhibitors can be used temporarily to halt cell division without promoting additional toxic effects in the hair follicle.”

Dr Purba further explained that when they bathed human scalp hair follicles in a CDK4/6 inhibitors solution they became less affected by the effects of taxanes. It analysed that the most vulnerable to taxanes were the specialised dividing cells which are located at the very base of the hair follicle, and the stem cells from which they arise. For that reason, they started an investigation on how to protect these particular cells from undesired chemotherapy effects but in such a way that malign cells are still eradicated successfully.

Their ultimate goal for the future is to develop externally applicable medicines that will complement existing preventive approaches for cancer treatment-induced hair loss.

Dr Purba emphasised the importance of this study, as there are still uncertainties when it comes to why some people lose more hair than others while in chemo treatment, and why some drug combinations produce more damage than others. This study is aimed at revealing those aspects as well.

He added: “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.”

The researchers behind the study highlighted the fact that more exploration in the topic area is desperately needed in this field of cancer research, which is currently highly underfunded. Patients, too, have been impatiently waiting for a pharmacological breakthrough when it comes to chemo-induced hair damage as they feel that hair-loss, especially in women, affects them the most.

The study has recently attracted a vast amount of attention, with many people eager to hear the outcomes.

More Coverage

We’re all in this together: Scottish wildcats are merging with domestic cats

The Scottish wildcat population has been severely weakened by genetic mixing with domestic cats. Concerted conservation efforts will be needed to restore them to their former glory

How reindeers keep their cool

With all the exercise reindeers supposedly get up to (think flying across the globe) how do they keep cool with such a well-insulating coat? Here’s the answer

Eternal youth explored- new breakthroughs in revolutionising ageing

As botox becomes more of a staple than a pop-star luxury, longevity research is becoming a much invested research area. Here’s how the UK is joining the science of ‘eternal youth’

From fusion to seclusion: the increasing isolation of scientists in Iran and Russia

Increasing international tensions and sanctions have left researchers isolated from the global scientific community