Chemotherapy-induced hair loss can be stressful and upsetting for a woman who is already contending with the physical toll of cancer treatments, but a new cooling cap is making waves with its groundbreaking ability to significantly reduce hair loss.
Called the Dignicap, the invention is a two-part layering system. The inner skull-like cap contains tubes attached to a machine that pumps in coolant at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, while a cushioned outer cap locks in and preserves the refrigeration effect. The cap is worn before, during and after chemotherapy sessions for best results.
So how does it work? By reducing the amount of blood flow to hair follicles, the DigniCap effectively constricts the blood vessels with a controlled and sustained blast of cold air. Less blood flow means that fewer toxic chemicals will reach the scalp and damage hair follicles, which is what causes hair to clump out.
Already widely used in Europe, Swedish parent company Dignitana has most recently tested the device in Japan, where an eye-opening 83 percent of a 255 women group undergoing breast cancer chemotherapy sessions reported keeping most of their hair.
The initial U.S. pilot study is currently underway at the University of California, San Francisco, where oncologist and professor Hope S. Rugo, M.D. is the lead overseer. Rugo says the goal is to eventually receive FDA approval, and so the team is working closely with the FDA on the study design and results analysis.
In the current study of 20 women with breast cancer, photographs are taken during and after chemotherapy to track hair loss and preservation, as is data on how well the patient is able to tolerate the cooling system. Side effects are also tracked. The hope is that the next, more complete study involving a target 100 women will be approved based on the results of the preliminary one. If that happens, final FDA approval could be just a few years away.
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