A groundbreaking new cancer drug could help remove one of the most pernicious side-effects associated with many treatments for the disease because it reduces the likelihood of extreme hair loss.
Many chemotherapy patients are told to expect their hair to fall out during treatment – it is an unfortunate side effect of cancer drugs which get into the blood-stream and wreak havoc with the hair follicles. But a new drug named pembrolizumab (brand name: Keytruda) comes at things from a completely new angle, and it is one that means hair loss is less likely.
According to the Futurism website, pembrolizumab has been “fast-tracked” for clearance in the US by the FDA, because it is so revolutionary. Unlike other treatments, pembrolizumab uses genetic information to seek out tumours of a specific type in the body and attack them.
When tested on 86 patients during a recent clinical trial, 66 per cent of them saw their tumours shrink and stabilise. And 18 of these 66 saw their tumours disappear completely.
Not only does the drug show remarkable promise as a completely new way to tackle certain types of cancer (at present only around four per cent of cancer patients would be likely to find it effective), it doesn’t list hair loss as one of its side effects. Shedding is mentioned as a possible complication of hormone gland problems that may arise as a result of treatment, but it appears that the likelihood of hair falling out as a direct result of medication are much lower than traditional chemotherapy drugs.
What’s worth pointing out is that Telogen Effluvium – an all-over hair thinning condition that affects the whole scalp – remains a possibility due to the stress the body will be under fighting the disease. This would, however, would most likely be temporary hair loss in the form of diffusely thinning hair whilst the body adjusts to the new medication, not the type of devastating baldness associated with chemotherapy or the permanent hairloss that can come with radiation therapy. Telogen Effluvium treatment at a specialist clinic relies on a multi-pronged approach and has proven effective in many cases.
Cold caps offer hope, too
The Futurism article notes that pembrolizumab has opened the doors for a whole new kind of treatment, and that it seems feasible that other cancers may one day be targeted with similar drugs. The main current downside is Keytruda’s price tag, which is reported to be more than US$150,000 per year.
Pembrolizumab is not the only sliver of potential good news for people with cancer who are about to undergo treatment and are worried about losing their hair: cold caps have been steadily proving themselves over the past few decades, and are often offered to both men and women who are about to undergo certain types of chemotherapy treatment. These devices – the best known in the UK is made by British company Paxman – are worn during chemo to slow down the supply of blood to the scalp and deter the cancer drugs from reaching the follicles.
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.