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UoM scientists’ breakthrough for cancer hair-loss

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.

Tags: Cancer research, chemo, chemotherapy, hair loss, manchester cancer research centre, University of Manchester cancer research

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