A cruel side-effect of many chemotherapy drugs is hair loss: while the drugs often do a supreme job of killing cancer cells, their somewhat ‘scattergun’ delivery approach means that healthy cells in the scalp are also bombarded with some pretty powerful chemical, too. As a result, hair loss will be seen after chemotherapy in as much as 75 per cent of cases.
The race for ever-better chemotherapy drugs knows no bounds – it was recently announced, for example, that artificial intelligence could be employed to create more effective drugs. Now, scientists at the much-respected Stanford University have arguably gone one better. In brief, they are working on attaching cancer drugs to proteins that will take them straight to the tumour. Once there, they will latch on to the tumour and attack them directly, with minimal damage to surrounding cells.
The method is especially well-suited to tumours that are hard to target because blood supply to them is very low. Resorting to high doses of chemotherapy drugs, notes the Stanford News website, could be deadly to other cells. The article also notes that a number of recently-approved therapies are now using antibodies to deliver drugs straight to tumours – antibodies being blood proteins created by the body to attack invading bacteria, viruses and so on.
Taking things a step further, Stanford’s associate professor of bioengineering Jennifer Cochran, pictured, has created a specially-engineered protein to take the drug to the tumour. She says its advantages are twofold: first, her engineered protein may be small enough to pass through a barrier that protects the brain, meaning it could be effective on brain tumours. Secondly, it is so small that it might prove more effective than antibodies to get to those hard-to-reach, blood-starved tumours that frequently prove so difficult to treat.
The engineered protein, says Stanford News, latches tightly onto molecules named integrins which are frequently found on the surface of cancer cells. Once there, the protein delivers the cancer drug it carries to the exact spot it is needed.
Tests on mice and in lab dishes have so far shown the method to be extremely effective at annihilating cancer cells. Scientists at Stanford now hope that because the engineered protein – which is based on a protein called knottin – cannot get inside healthy cells that do not express integrins, it will allow doctors to offer a significantly more targeted approach to chemotherapy. As a result, hair loss could be greatly reduced.
Multiple institutions have been supporting Cochran’s work and it seems that this could be the start of something very exciting in the field of chemotherapy, where hair loss is frequently mentioned as one of the most debilitating side effects.
Hair often grows back
When it comes to regrowing hair after chemotherapy, many cancer suriviors will find their hair grows back within a year after treatment has finished, although chemo-induced alopecia can be permanent in some cases. There are currently a number of lawsuits being brought in the USA regarding the cancer drug taxotere which multiple patients believe has caused them irreversable baldness.
If you have lost hair during cancer treatment and want advice or help with how to accelerate the regrowth process, it can be comforting to talk to an expert at a specialist hair loss clinic.
They can advise on what to expect and, where appropriate, discuss measures may be taken to provide the best chance of healthy regrowth, whether this is through hair loss treatment or through the use of boosters such as recommended food supplements – or both, and can work in conjunction with your doctor to make sure any course is suited to your personal and medical needs.
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.