A new therapeutic target for preventing hair loss in chemotherapy-treated cancer patients
Losing one’s hair is a profoundly unnerving phenomenon that affects daily life, social relationships, and even one’s own confidence. While about 2% of the world’s population suffers from general hair loss, it is an extremely common side effect of chemotherapy for cancer patients, notably affecting 99% of breast cancer patients and 65% of all cancer patients. As chemotherapy indiscriminately targets rapidly dividing cells, hair is particularly susceptible to its effects. Current treatments for chemotherapy-induced hair loss include scalp cooling caps which prevent blood flow to the head, reducing the likelihood that chemotherapy drugs reach the hair follicles as well as Minoxidil, or Rogaine, used more generally for age-related alopecia but also to promote hair regeneration after chemotherapy. However, the benefits of Rogaine for post-chemotherapy patients are unclear, and other treatments do not work well enough to prevent hair follicle destruction during chemotherapy. Thus, there is a need for new therapeutic targets for treating hair loss, especially for cancer patients for whom the likely standard-of-care chemotherapy will destroy their hair follicle cells.
Duke inventors have identified a novel therapeutic target for chemotherapy-induced hair loss. By blocking thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) with monoclonal antibodies, they prevent hair cycle arrest from chemotherapy-induced cytotoxicity. This is intended to be administered to patients topically, subcutaneously, or intravenously by physicians before and during chemotherapy to delay the hair cycle entry before and while chemotherapy acts non-specifically upon hair follicle stem cells (HFSC). The inventors have demonstrated this in vivo through wound-induction models where mice lacking the TSLP receptor fail to initiate hair cycling. In addition, they confirmed that TSLP is present throughout the hair regeneration cycle, necessary for wound healing-induced hair growth, and most highly expressed during active hair growth. Mouse experiments assessing the interaction of TSLP blockade with chemotherapy, any synergistic effects upon chemotherapy outcomes, as well as synergistic effects of TSLP with other hair growth stimuli are ongoing.
This technology could also be used for alopecia patients not related to chemotherapy, whereby hair loss is a fundamental symptom. In addition, TSLP has been found to promote the growth and metastasis of several cancers including breast cancer, and thus its blockade could present a new adjuvant therapeutic strategy to chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy. Finally, hair loss is often an accompanying symptom of treatments for acne, bacterial and fungal infections, high cholesterol, clotting, seizures, blood pressure, aberrantly active immune systems, weight loss, depression, and gout. This new technology could therefore address hair loss as a symptom of these ailments and present a general treatment strategy.
- First-in-class approach to treat hair loss demonstrated in vivo
- Long-lasting effects up to 45 days
- May be administered locally
- Anti-TSLP neutralizing antibody is approved for asthma treatment