Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hair Loss Health Center

Font Size

New Drug Could Prevent Hair Loss From Chemotherapy

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Craig H. Kliger, MD

Jan. 4, 2001 -- For many patients, the one side effect of cancer treatment considered even more harrowing than nausea and vomiting is hair loss. The same drugs that often save lives also can cause very real physical hardship and emotional distress. But chemotherapy-induced hair loss may become a thing of the past if a promising new drug works as well in humans as it does in rats.

Besides killing rapidly dividing cancer cells, chemotherapy causes hair loss by killing off proliferating hair follicle cells, says study leader Stephen T. Davis, PhD. So his team attempted to create a class of compounds to inhibit a specific enzyme -- called CDK2 -- that "is a key switch for turning on cell division." They wanted to know if they could temporarily stop the normal cell cycle in the hair follicles, and whether putting cells into this state of suspended animation might make them less vulnerable to chemotherapy, he tells WebMD. The idea appears to have worked.

First, they showed in the laboratory that the compounds they developed could protect against several chemotherapy agents, "and then we went on to show that they could be applied topically to rats and produce a very robust response in terms of protecting from chemotherapy-induced hair loss," says Davis, who is senior research investigator in the department of cancer biology at GlaxoSmithKline in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The findings are published in the Jan. 5 issue of Science.

Davis and his colleagues applied the compounds to the scalps of baby rats two to four hours before giving the animals chemotherapy. "The hair was protected and remained on the scalp, and the remainder of the body, where we didn't apply the compounds, experienced complete hair loss. It was quite a dramatic contrast," he says.

According to Karen Fields, MD, who reviewed the paper for WebMD, the approach "makes a lot of sense. These compounds specifically inhibit cell cycling, and if you can inhibit the cell cycle at the right time so that the cells are in a resting stage, and then [give the] chemotherapy, the chemotherapy might not have an effect on those cells. It's a very good rationale," she says. Fields directs the bone marrow transplant program at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla.

Today on WebMD

hair in hairbrush
Ways to go about it naturally.
Young woman with thick curly hair
Causes and solutions.
man with thinning hair
How to keep the hair you have.
Closeup of Hairbrush with Hair Loss
Understand the basics.
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Balding man in mirror
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Young woman with thick curly hair
hair problems