Cancer patients may not lose all their hair during chemotherapy
Trials on the scalp-cooling technology, which reduces the side effects of chemicals on hair follicles during chemotherapy, started two years ago and the hospital said it is now ready to offer the technique to its patients.Updated: Oct 16, 2019 05:20 IST
Patients undergoing chemotherapy may no longer go bald.
Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), Parel, recently completed trials of an imported technology that will reduce hair loss in patients during chemotherapy.
Trials on the scalp-cooling technology, which reduces the side effects of chemicals on hair follicles during chemotherapy, started two years ago and the hospital said it is now ready to offer the technique to its patients.
The hospital said the trial achieved 56% hair retention rate during radiation among patients and 85% hair regrowth after treatment, compared to almost 100% hair loss and 12% regrowth rate among patients, who were not part of the trial.
Dr Jyoti Bajpai, professor of department of medical oncology at TMH, said, “Chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells in the body which also affects hair, leading to alopecia (baldness). Through scalp-cooling technology, we limit the damage of hair follicles by reducing the temperature of the scalp to around 18 degrees, before, during and after chemotherapy. This causes vasoconstriction, which reduces blood flow to hair follicles by narrowing down the blood vessels, minimising hair loss.”
The trial has been conducted with two most commonly used drugs in cancer chemotherapy — taxane and anthracycline. “Through the trial, we just wanted to find out the success rate of it so we have incorporated the two most commonly used drugs in the process. So, even though the trial was only on patients suffering from breast cancer, it would be useful for all cancer patients,” added Bajpai. The result showed that the success rate of taxane was higher than anthracycline.
The clinical trial was done on 51 women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. A patient wears a cooling cap with attached coolant tubes for at least 30 minutes before chemotherapy. The tubes remain connected to a refrigeration unit which circulates the coolant to the cap. The refrigeration is kept below -4 degrees with help of cooling crystals. After chemotherapy, the standard post-cooling time is 90 minutes.
Doctors said many cancer survivors, especially women, feel stigmatised after going bald.
Dr Shripad D Banavali, head of department, paediatric oncology, TMH, said the technology will help younger patients in their psychological improvement. “Young patients go into depression after going bald. The new technology can provide hope to hundreds of patients. So far, this was available only in western countries,” said Banavali.
The hospital has procured two machines from the US which has been given free of cost as it is for a clinical trial. Even though it had approval of Food and Drugs Administration, TMH had to run the clinical trial to check if it can be used among patients in India.
The hospital said priority will be given to in-house patients, especially girl children. There would be a minimal charge but it hasn’t been decided. The department has submitted a research paper on the trial in an international journal for reviews.