Drugs used as part of cancer treatment can sometimes be so strong that they may cause permanent hair loss in some cancer patients – whose body is not able to endure those drugs. And considering that we often see our hair as an important part of our identity, suddenly losing it due to cancer treatment can be a very distressing experience for both men and women.
Now researchers have gotten one step closer to preventing chemo-induced hair-loss from happening. More specifically, researchers from the University of Manchester have understood how taxanes – a powerful class of chemotherapy drugs commonly used to treat breast cancer and lung carcinoma – damage hair follicles. The researchers found that taxanes are especially ruinous not simply because they knock out existing hair follicles, as has been commonly held, but because they specifically target the dividing cells responsible for producing the hair itself. Therefore, it’s essential that those cells are most protected from undesired chemotherapy effects.
While scientists underscore that more work is desperately needed in this lamentably underfunded field of cancer medicine, the breakthrough paves the way for the development of new treatments that prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss – arguably one of the most psychologically distressing side effects of modern cancer therapy.