'Cold caps' may halt hair loss in breast cancer patients: study

December 9, 2016 by Maureen Salamon, Healthday Reporter
Woman wearing 'cold cap' Photo: Baylor College of Medicine

(HealthDay)—Cooling the scalp with a specialized cap during chemotherapy sessions could help breast cancer patients avoid treatment-related hair loss, new research suggests.

In a clinical trial involving women with early stage , just over half who underwent scalp-cooling throughout at least four cycles of chemotherapy retained their hair, though some thinning may have occurred.

"When you lose your hair, everyone knows you're sick and looks at you differently," said study author Dr. Julie Rani Nangia, explaining the potential impact of cold cap use.

Nangia is an assistant professor of medicine at the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The study was funded by the manufacturer of the cold caps, Paxman Cooling. The devices are known as the Orbis Paxman Hair Loss Prevention System. The company is now seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for their cold caps.

Nearly 247,000 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. There are also about 2.8 million in the United States.

Treatment depends on the stage and aggressiveness of a patient's cancer. Treatment can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormone and targeted therapies.

Nangia and her team enrolled 235 women with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer who were planning to receive at least four cycles of anthracycline- or taxane-based chemotherapy. Those chemotherapy drugs, like others, can lead to because they attack rapidly dividing cells, which include cancer cells but also hair follicles.

Scalp cooling, more commonly used in Europe, is believed to reduce hair loss by lowering the temperature of the scalp, reducing blood flow to hair follicles. Another brand of cold cap known as the DigniCap was cleared for use in the United States by the FDA in December 2015.

In the new study, participants were split into two groups. One group included two-thirds of the women. This group received scalp cooling. The other third received no cooling.

After four cycles of chemotherapy, 50.5 percent of patients in the cooling group experienced hair preservation, compared with none in the non-cooling group, the study findings showed.

Fitted to a patient's head, the cold caps were in place 30 minutes before chemotherapy began, for the entire chemotherapy session, and for 90 minutes after chemotherapy, Nangia explained. The cold cap cooled patients' scalps to 64 degrees, she said, and side effects were mild, including headache and discomfort.

"The big downside is it adds an hour onto [total] time," Nangia said. She noted that the difficulty of perfecting the fit of a cap to each patient's head may have influenced how effectively it thwarted hair loss.

Scalp-cooling technology has been used during treatment for other solid tumor cancers in other countries, but isn't recommended for patients with blood cancers because it constricts blood vessels. Women in this study will be tracked for the next five years to monitor overall survival, any cancer recurrence and potential spread of cancer to the scalp, Nangia said.

Susan Brown is managing director of health and science education for the nonprofit breast cancer advocacy group Susan G. Komen. She said she was somewhat surprised by the study findings, noting that other research on cold caps has produced "varying degrees of success in hair retention."

Brown said the cost of cold caps—which can exceed $1,000 per patient, according to Nangia—might pose an obstacle for some patients. Wigs are likely cheaper and sometimes paid for by grants and other funding sources, Brown added.

But Brown believes cold caps could be an important option for women with breast cancer, though probably not all would want to use them.

"If women don't have to lose their hair, it helps them personally and emotionally, and leaves it to them to share their story if they want to," she said.

The study was scheduled for presentation Friday at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas. Research presented at scientific meetings typically hasn't been peer-reviewed or published, and results are considered preliminary.

Explore further: FDA clears cold cap to save hair during breast cancer chemo

More information: The American Cancer Society has more on cold caps.

Related Stories

FDA clears cold cap to save hair during breast cancer chemo

December 8, 2015
Hair loss is one of the most despised side effects of chemotherapy, and now breast cancer patients are getting a new way to save their locks.

Cold caps tested to prevent hair loss during chemo

July 22, 2013
(AP)—The first time Miriam Lipton had breast cancer, her thick hair fell out two weeks after starting chemotherapy. The second time breast cancer struck, Lipton gave her scalp a deep chill and kept much of her hair—making ...

Breast cancer awareness: What women need to know

September 28, 2016
As national Breast Cancer Awareness Months begins next week, breast health expert Dr. Sharon Koehler of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, says women need to know the following five things:

Researchers explain science behind scalp cooling and hair loss in cancer treatment

March 25, 2015
Hair loss is one of the most distressing side-effects of cancer treatment and can even deter some patients from undergoing life-saving chemotherapy. But researchers at the University of Huddersfield are establishing the ...

New technology on the way to aid cancer suffers who lose their hair after chemotherapy

October 29, 2014
Cancer suffers who lose their hair as a consequence of chemotherapy will benefit from a major research project that will improve the scalp cooling technology that prevents hair loss.

Recommended for you

Targeting the engine room of the cancer cell

June 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) have developed a highly innovative computational framework that can support personalized cancer treatment by matching individual tumors with the drugs or drug ...

Researchers create novel combination as potential therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma

June 18, 2018
Researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center in Richmond, Virginia, have identified a promising target to reverse the development of high-risk neuroblastoma and potentially inform the creation of novel combination therapies for ...

Study suggests well-known growth suppressor actually fuels lethal brain cancers

June 18, 2018
Scientists report finding a potentially promising treatment target for aggressive and deadly high-grade brain cancers like glioblastoma. But they also say the current lack of a drug that hits the molecular target keeps it ...

Genomics offers new treatment options for infants with range of soft tissue tumors

June 18, 2018
The genetic causes of a group of related infant cancers have been discovered by scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the University of Wuerzburg and their collaborators. Whole genome sequencing of tumours revealed ...

Standard myelofibrosis drug can awaken 'dormant' lymphoma

June 18, 2018
Most patients with myelofibrosis, a rare chronic disorder of the haematopoietic cells of the bone marrow, benefit from drugs from the JAK2 inhibitor class: symptoms are relieved, survival extended and general quality-of-life ...

Breast cancer researcher warns against online genetic tests

June 18, 2018
We have never been so fascinated by the secrets inside our cells.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.