Hearing the words, “you have cancer”, is enough to rock you to the core, and just when you think you’ve come to terms with that reality, treatment begins. The lack of tumour specificity of some cancer treatments mean that patients might have to put up with being constantly sick, tired, run-down and on top of that, risk hair loss. Britain’s favourite TV personality, Jade Goody, was part of that majority. She said that after everything she’d prepared herself for, seeing her hair fall out was still the most shocking part of the battle.
For the patient, attempting to cure cancer can be just as scary as having the debilitating condition itself. Treatment relies mainly on surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and though these strategies have benefited millions of cancer patients, in some cases, they can inflict more harm than they’re worth.
But researchers have now developed a way to deliver drugs which can inactivate cancer-causing genes in tumour cells, without causing the usual sickness and hair loss. The international team, led by the University of Queensland in Australia, says the new method which involves the use of coatings rich in fats, will hasten the application of RNA interference and spare normal healthy tissues.
RNA interference is a Nobel-prize winning technology discovered in the late 90s that allows highly-specific silencing of cancer-causing genes in tumour cells. Using this technology, the team observed a 70% reduction in tumour size in a cervical cancer mouse model.
According to lead researcher Sherry Wu, the new method of treatment required a new method of deliverance.
“The traditional ways of packaging these drugs into suitable carriers are often complex and labour-intensive. The resulting products are also unstable at room temperature which is obviously not ideal for their clinical use,” Wu said.
“In order to deliver these gene-silencing drugs safely and efficiently into tumour tissues in the body, we have to package them in lipid-rich carriers.”
Co-researcher Nigel McMillan said they are now exploring the feasibility of combining the new treatment with chemotherapy use.
“We are excited about our findings and we are currently investigating the feasibility of combining this gene-silencing technology with low dose chemotherapeutic agents in cancer treatments.”
Hair loss is a common side effect of cancer treatment and can be a source of added distress. Before treatment, some people turn to wigs and hairpieces in preparation for the loss of hair. Some manage by wearing hats and headscarves. For most, the hair will grow back within a year of treatment but for others, it can be more difficult. They may need to turn to more medication, this time hair loss treatments, to help re-grow what’s been lost.
Cancer is undoubtedly devastating in itself but the physical and emotional repercussions resonate and it can be a long and trying ordeal. Hopefully this new treatment means we’re a step closer to curing cancer, or at least will spell the end of the unbearable side effects of it’s treatment.
For more information about hair growth after cancer treatment, contact the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email.