The type of hair loss seen after chemotherapy treatment is often described as a serious additional blow to a patient who is already having to go through the rigours of battling cancer.
In fact, according to an article in New Scientist, as many as 8% of women have considered refusing cancer treatment in order to preserve their hair. These and just about everyone else who is told that they need chemotherapy treatment will no doubt be heartened, therefore, by news from Taiwan that suggests doctors may be on the verge of keeping cancer-related hair loss at bay thanks to a new injection.
Negative effect on hair growth
The New Scientist writes that doctors at the National Taiwan University who were contemplating why hair so often fell out during chemotherapy treatment looked into the role of a protein called p53, which is activated during chemotherapy. As well as suppressing tumour growth, they felt p53 may also have a negative effect on hair growth as well. Importantly, there had been a previous study that doctors could refer to which found that mice missing the p53 protein did not shed their fur when they were administered chemotherapy drugs.
During their investigations, the Taiwanese team made an important discovery: the p53 protein actually blocks the activity of a hair-promoting protein named WNT3a. The doctors posited that an injection containing WNT3a proteins injected directly into the scalp during chemotherapy might prevent hair loss.
They tested their theory on mice, and while the method used was deemed not safe or suitable for human use, the results were nonetheless impressive. Where WNT3a proteins had been injected under the surface of the mice skin, no fur fell out from that area when the mice were given chemotherapy drugs. The areas of the mouse that had not been injected saw significant shedding of the fur.
Similar treatment for humans
Naturally, this paves the way for future research into the effects of a similar treatment on humans, whose current best chance of keeping their hair during chemotherapy is to use a scalp cooling system called a cold cap. These are quite widely used in hospitals around the world and some of the examples on the market boast impressive success rates – although success is generally deemed to be hair loss that is not so severe that the patient will need to wear a wig. Irrefutably better than nothing in many cases, cold caps still often fall short of being a dream solution. Some wearers also say that the chilling action employed by the scalp gives them headaches.
The New Scientist article says that the Taiwanese team is now trying to adapt its treatment so that it can be used on people. The University’s Sung-Jan Lin, who is quoted in the article, says that one possible solution may be to inject the protein into the scalp using an assortment of fine needles. Better still, would be a cream or gel to be applied to the scalp, which the Taiwanese team is contemplating, too.
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.