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Radiotherapy VMAT Delivery System May Prevent Cancer Hair Loss

A relatively new form of delivering radiotherapy treatment to people with brain cancer is to be assessed to see if it results in less hair loss than with other methods.

London’s Harley Street Clinic has told clinicaltrials.gov that it is currently recruiting participants for a trial in which it aims to ascertain whether the Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) method of delivery is less harsh on the scalp than other radiation treatment methods on people with metastatic brain cancer.

Hair loss patchy and uneven

The clinic states that “current treatment methods to treat the whole brain with radiotherapy result in complete alopecia as a side effect. Hair loss is usually patchy and uneven and re-growth similar and slow.”

VMAT machineThe study aims to discover whether reducing the radiation dose to the hair-bearing follicle and using the VMAT system to deliver the therapy will reduce hair loss and increase the speed and evenness of regrowth. The VMAT machine is belived to target the cancerous cells more precisely and works by continuously irradiating the treatment area while the beam rotates around the patient, as opposed to being static.

During chemotherapy treatment patients are sometimes able to keep their hair, their chances often rising if they have the option of wearing a cold cap – a device worn on the head which chills the scalp and helps to keep the anti-cancer drugs at bay. With radiation therapy – during which the wearing of a cold cap has no use – the resulting hair fall is more severe and can result in permanent hair loss.

Sometimes referred to as Post-Cancer Alopecia, hair loss caused by radiation is actually a form of Cicatricial Alopecia – otherwise known as Scarring Alopecia. This completely destroys hair follicles meaning hair growth is no longer possible in the affected areas. 

“Hair loss has been found to have a negative impact on quality of life and can be particularly stressful for patients with a very short life expectancy,” write the Harley Street Clinic on their study literature. “Trying to minimise this treatment side effect is a worthwhile investigation.”

Observational study

The clinic states that the study “is not looking at any prescribed dose changes,” and is actually an observational study of hair loss and regrowth during radiation treatment delivered via the VMAT system. They add that because complete hair loss is expected in all patients receiving conventionally-delivered whole brain radiation treatment, it will be considered a positive result if total hair loss doesn’t happen when using the VMAT method of delivery.

New Hair Loss StudyIf the method does prove to allow hair follicles survive radiation treatment for cancer this would be extremely exciting as it could mean survivors would have the opportunity to grow their hair back. Although growth may be slow, given this was not previously an option this breakthrough could be incredibly significant, allowing for either natural hair growth or regrowth boosted by specially-tailored treatment courses under the supervision of a hair loss specialist nurse.

An estimated 20 patients will be involved and photographic data will be gathered over four months following their treatment. The volunteer’s own feedback concerning how they feel about the changes to their hair throughout their cancer treatment will also be recorded and taken into consideration when reviewing the findings.

The study started its enrollment process in August 2015 with the timeline for results currently stating a September 2016 deadline for initial data collection, with an April 2017 end date scheduled, after which the findings should be announced. Once we have further information on this we will publish an update here on the Belgravia blog.


Belgravia CentreThe Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.


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