It was announced in December of last year that a scalp-cooling system helps prevent hair loss in patients with breast cancer that are undergoing chemotherapy. This announcement was made by researchers at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium as a new medical option for female hair loss and treatment.
According to the lead author of the research project, Dr. Julie Rani Nangia of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, “Scalp cooling devices are highly effective and should become available to women with breast cancer receiving chemotherapy.”
Dr. Nangia explained that the technology used in the scalp-cooling system lowers the scalp temperature which serves to lessen the blood flow to the hair follicles. According to the doctor, other studies have shown this treatment to reduce the hair loss in patients with cancer currently undergoing chemotherapy.
The SCALP Trial (Scalp Cooling Alopecia Prevention) took place at seven medical centers with 235 women taking part in the trial. All of the women had stage 1 or 2 breast cancer and they were also due to have 4 rounds or more of chemotherapy with taxane or anthracycline. Both anthracycline and taxane are known to cause hair loss. When it came time to start the study, the patients were assigned no scalp-cooling or to have scalp-cooling with the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System (OPHLPS) which is still considered experimental. The assignments for each patient were made randomly.
The system has a “cold cap” and it is placed on the head of the patient during chemotherapy. The cooling treatment was done for 30-minutes before and during the chemotherapy as well as for a 90-minute period following the chemo treatment. Dr. Nangia and her team were so happy with the results from the scalp-cooling device that they made the decision to end the study and release the data to the public.
At the time the decision was made to stop the study, 95 cooling group patients and 47 patients that were in the non-cooling group had finished at least 4 chemotherapy cycles. The results showed that 48 cooling group patients kept their hair (50.5%) while none of the non-cooling group patients kept their hair. There were some side effects including dizziness, headaches and nausea. Of the group that used the “cold cap”, most of them found the cap to be comfortable to wear during the treatment. The women who took part in the trial study will be followed for five years in order to monitor any recurrence of cancer as well as their overall survival rate.
The makers of the OLPHS system, Paxman, are currently waiting for clearance from the FDA to market the device.