A scalp-cooling device has been found effective at reducing hair loss in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Reporting their findings at the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Julia Nangia and colleagues may have found the solution to helping ease the additional emotional stress cancer patients feel when they lose their hair while receiving treatment.

"Patients and physicians have been hoping and searching for methods or therapies to prevent or reduce hair loss due to chemotherapy, but the options have been very limited due to the complexity of both the disease and the treatment," said Nangia.

Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System

The researchers tested a two-cap system called the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System. Made by Paxman Coolers Ltd., the scalp-cooling device features an inner silicon cap that circulates refrigerated fluid and an outer neoprene cap that insulates the patient's scalp. The company also provided funding so the device could be tested.

Both caps are designed to be worn during the course of a chemotherapy system, devised to keep the coolant at a consistent temperature and hooked up to a small machine that can be detached should the patient need to move during a session.

With the primary objective of determining the scalp-cooling device's safety and efficacy in reducing hair loss in cancer patients, the study was carried out in several trial sites located all over the United States, including the Cleveland Clinic, the Texas Oncology Baylor Sammons Cancer Center, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Texas Oncology Medical City Dallas, Hematology and Oncology Associates of Northern New Jersey (now called Summit Medical Group-MD Anderson Cancer Center), and the Texas Oncology Memorial City.

It also involved 182 women diagnosed with stage I or II breast cancer and are scheduled to receive at least four rounds of either anthracycline- or taxane-based chemotherapy. The participants were randomly divided into two, with one group using the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention system and the other not receiving cooling therapy. Women were chosen as subjects because they represent a large population of breast cancer patients and are generally more emotionally sensitive regarding the issue of hair loss.

Those on cooling therapy were made to wear the scalp-cooling device for 30 minutes before their treatment began, while they were receiving chemotherapy, and 90 minutes after receiving their treatment.

The researchers observed that 50.5 percent of the patients in the cooling group experienced hair preservation while no one in the no-cooling group yielded the same results.

During the course of the trial, the participants reported temporary discomfort and headaches. To fully see if there will be adverse effects related to wearing the scalp-cooling device, the researchers will be following participants part of the cooling group for five years.

How Cooling Therapy Prevents Hair Loss

Nangia explained that chemotherapy works by targeting rapidly dividing cells, including hair cells. However, about 90 percent of targeted rapidly dividing hair cells are in the growth stage, which is why hair loss occurs.

Cooling therapy addresses hair loss during chemotherapy by lowering the scalp's temperature, constricting blood vessels to reduce blood flow to hair follicles. This also means a reduction in chemotherapy drugs reaching the hair follicles so they are spared from the effects of the treatment.

With desired results met in the study, Paxman Coolers Ltd. will be filing for the scalp-cooling device's clearance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2015, the FDA cleared the use of the DigniCap Scalp Cooling System for the same purpose.

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