A new study by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre is exploring various effects of chemotherapy on women with non-metastatic breast cancer.
The research, which will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Chicago and New York University, is specifically looking at any resulting hair loss, hair changes, skin ageing and nail changes.
Although treatment for metastatic breast cancer often does not result in hair loss, the same is not true for non-metastatic cancer. This observational study is registered under the official title: The Prospective, Longitudinal Study of Chemotherapy-Induced Hair Changes and Alopecia, Skin Ageing and Nail Changes in Women With Non-Metastatic Breast Cancer.
It will involve studying three groups of women – 700 women in total, all over 18 years of age – over a one year period. The first group will be women undergoing cytotoxic chemotherapy and the second group will comprise women having endocrine therapy. The third group will act as a control and will feature menopausal women.
All three groups will consent to clinical assessments, behavioural questionnaires and saliva samples. However, whilst the first two groups will have this information taken on a regular basis, the control group will not be subject to follow-ups after the baseline results for comparison are established.
Exclusion criteria for this clinical study, which is currently recruiting for participants, includes anyone with existing hair loss conditions such as Alopecia Areata or scarring alopecia, also known as Cicatricial Alopecia. It also omits anyone who has an illness or is currently taking medication that can cause hair loss or affect scalp hair in any way as a side-effect; for example, women with thyroid disorders are excluded for this reason.
Researchers hope to be able to extrapolate certain information from their findings which are due in August 2018. By locating genetic markers and clinical factors they could help to identify which groups are more likely to be susceptible to certain side-effects of the chemotherapy treatment.
They further state in the trial’s registration: ‘We trust that the study will improve our understanding of how cancer patients feel about their skin, hair, and nail conditions. This information will help us determine the burden on breast cancer patients and survivors. It will also help us learn how to prevent these conditions and it may improve the way we treat them and counsel patients’.
Hair loss from cancer treatment
At present hair loss from cancer treatment is only avoidable, or able to be minimised, through the use of a cold cap. The helmet-style device is worn during chemotherapy sessions and is becoming more widely used in hospitals.
This innovative technology, which was developed in the UK and is based on a beer cooler, chills the scalp to such low temperatures that ice can form under the cap. Chemo drugs can cause hair loss by attacking everything in their path rather than just the cancerous cells. So, by using a scalp cooling system to inhibit bloodflow to the scalp, the flow of drugs is inhibited. This means they are likely to reach the hair follicles and cause the hair to fall out.
For those who are affected by hair loss from cancer treatment, with radiation therapy there is a chance of permanent hair loss due to scarring alopecia. However, with chemotherapy it is usually the case that this is temporary and within a year of finishing chemo the hair will have grown back. Hair loss treatment can be used to accelerate this process in some instances, however, this requires the patient’s oncologist to sign off on them being suitable before any treatments are prescribed.
The 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.