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A group of researchers, including an Indian origin, has discovered a novel method, which shows how hair loss from chemotherapy can be prevented during cancer treatment in patients, perhaps one of the most psychologically distressing side effects of modern cancer therapy.
Published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, the study describes how damage to the hair follicles caused by taxanes, cancer drugs which can lead to permanent hair loss, can be prevented.
In order to do this, the research team has utilized the properties of a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors, a class of drugs that are designed to interrupt the growth of cancer cells.
The lead author of the study Talveen Purba from the University of Manchester said, "Although at first, this seems counterintuitive, we found that CDK4/6 inhibitors can be used temporarily to halt cell division without promoting additional toxic effects in the hair follicle. When we bathed organ-cultured human scalp hair follicles in CDK4/6 inhibitors, the hair follicles were much less susceptible to the damaging effects of taxanes.”
Taxanes are the anti-cancer drugs commonly used to treat patients with breast or lung carcinoma and especially cause anxieties among breast cancer patients for the very distressing and sometimes long-lasting hair loss taxanes can induce.
The pivotal part of study was to first get understanding of how exactly hair follicles responded to taxane chemotherapy, and the research team found that the specialized dividing cells at the base of the hair follicle that are critical for producing hair itself, and the stem cells from which they develop, are most vulnerable to taxanes.
"Therefore, we must protect these cells most from undesired chemotherapy effects - but so that cancer does not profit from it," Purba said.
The researchers emphasized that more work is gravely required in this deplorable under-funded field of cancer medicine, where patients have waited for so long to see real advances in pharmacological hair loss prevention.
By Sowmya Sangam