Cold caps could prevent hair loss during chemo, study underway

Related articles

669-YhPkT.Em.55 Eric Risberg AP Photo

It's not [yet] a solution, but certainly a clever idea aimed to minimize hair loss and perhaps lessen the emotional struggles among some patients undergoing chemotherapy. The chilling treatment has been around for decades in Europe and Canada, but it has yet to make strides here in the U.S until now.

Late this summer, researchers from North Carolina, New York and California will enroll 110 early stage breast cancer patients in the study of scalp cooling. The snug-fitting insulated cap is attached to a cooling machine, maintaining a chilling 41 degrees as patients undergo chemotherapy. Numbing the scalp, it is hoped, would reduce blood flow to the scalp, preventing cancer-fighting drugs from being absorbed into, and thus harming the hair follicles. The results will be compared to groups undergoing chemotherapy without scalp cooling.

The evidence behind scalp cooling was enough to convince the FDA to give its trial the green light. Last month, ACSH praised the cold caps pilot study and the international studies that supported the benefits of scalp cooling, especially given the absence of significant adverse effects. But questions remain as to whom it would benefit and just how low the temperature can go?

ACSH's Medical Director Dr. Gilbert Ross had this to say: This simple method to reduce the flow of potentially toxic drugs to the scalp sounds almost too good to be true. If it succeeds, the emotionally-devastating hair-loss often accompanying chemotherapy may be, if not eliminated, perhaps significantly reduced. That would be a major benefit, especially for women with breast cancer.