A Belgian study, conducted by Hasselt University in conjunction with Jessa Hospital, will investigate whether photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) can be used to treat - or possibly prevent - chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA).
This type of hair loss affects approximately 65 per cent of chemotherapy patients, according to the researchers.
PBMT is a form of red-light laser hair growth therapy, similar to that delivered via devices already established for the treatment of Male Pattern Baldness and women's hair loss, such as the FDA-cleared LaserBand.
According to the trial registration information, "the investigator's research team demonstrated already that PBMT can prevent oral mucositis and acute radiodermatitis. The aim of this project is to explore the use of PBMT in the management of CIA."
Whilst hair loss from cancer treatment can sometimes be prevented by the wearing of a cold cap hooked up to a scalp cooling system during chemo sessions, some patients find this to be an uncomfortable option.
This type of therapy involves wearing a helmet-like device which chills the scalp to extremely low temperature. By doing so, when the chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream, it deters them from reaching the hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.
When chemotherapy-induced hair loss does occur, the patient's hair should return to its pre-cancer state within roughly 12 months of their last chemo session. Sometimes it may look a little different to start with, but this is generally nothing to worry about.
Where this new hair loss solution comes in is as a method that may be used to help minimise shedding during chemo and to promote accelerated hair regrowth afterwards.
According to the researchers, "Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) is a new, preventive and therapeutic technique in the supportive care of cancer patients. It uses visible and (near)- infrared light produced by laser diodes or light emitting diodes (LED) at a low power to stimulate tissue repair and reduce inflammation and pain."
The randomised study, due to start in September 2019, will involve 30 breast cancer patients. Each will receive twice-weekly photobiomodulation therapy sessions for the duration of the 12 week study, starting at their last chemotherapy appointment. Whilst half of the group will receive active photobiomodulation therapy, half will be using sham devices as a placebo.
In addition to changes in the patients' hair growth results, their quality of life will also be measured and researchers state "Results of this project will lead to an improvement of the patients' quality of life after CT [chemotherapy]."
This latest exploration could possibly build on previous low level laser therapy (LLLT) clinical studies.
LLLT - the type of phototherapy delivered by the HairMax LaserBand devices, and previously its precursor the LaserComb, have already been held using an iGrow device. This is similar in style to a cold cap, having a bicycle helmet type design.
In 2017 a small-scale trial was held in America which showed that LLLT was a promising hair regrowth tool for patients who had lost their hair during cancer treatment. The results were declared to be “more dramatic than we expected” by the director for the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, who announced the results of the study at the 37th Annual Conference of the society in May 2017.
As only 11 patients took part in this initial investigation, the researchers aimed to enrol more participants in order to complete full, wider-ranging clinical trials into whether this form of red-light therapy that has been shown to be so useful in treating genetic hair loss may also benefit with those whose with CIA.
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