Immune Drugs Darkened Gray Hair Of Lung Cancer Patients

The gray hair of cancer patients involved in a study of new cancer drugs has turned youthfully dark.

Dark Hair Pigment Restored In Lung Cancer Patients

Chemotherapy, which is often used as treatment for cancer patients, is known to make the hair fall out but the new immunotherapy drugs, which work differently from chemotherapy, appears to have different side effects, one of which is restoring the hair pigment of patients diagnosed with lung cancer.

In a new study, Noelia Rivera, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and colleagues initially thought that the restored hair pigment observed in one patient was an isolated case. The researchers, however, found that the same thing happened with other patients.

The study, which involved 52 patients with lung cancer, aimed to see if bad side effects can arise from use of the drugs Keytruda, Opdivo and Tecentriq. The same drugs involved in the study have already been associated with hair losing color in patients with another form of cancer, melanoma.

Most of the patients in the new study did not experience changes in hair color but there were 14 who did, suggesting that the darkening of the hair color is not an isolated finding.

Of these 14 patients, 13 had hair that had turned to black or darkish brown, and one had hair that had turned black in patches.

Of the 14 patients, all but one responded better to the treatment they were administered compared with the other patients. The researchers said that this suggests that the darkening of the hair could be an indication that the drugs are working.

"We present to our knowledge the first report of hair repigmentation owing to anti-programmed cell death 1 (anti-PD-1) and anti-programmed cell death ligand 1 (anti-PD-L1 ) therapies for lung cancer in a series of 14 patients," the researchers reported in their study, which was published in the journal JAMA Dermatology on July 12.

"Hair repigmentation may be a good response marker in patients receiving anti-PD1/anti-PD-L1 therapy for lung cancer."

Promise For New Gray Hair Treatments

The results hold promise of a new treatment for gray hair but June Robinson, of Northwestern University, said that it is still too early to suggest that the study may lead to gray hair treatments. The researchers noted that the drugs used in the study come with serious side effects that can make them unsafe for healthy people.

Nonetheless, if it would be confirmed that these drugs indeed change the color of the hair, a different drug could be developed for treating gray hair.

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