A medical breakthrough could mean cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy won't have to lose their hair.

According to The Sun, scientists in Manchester have discovered how to protect the hair follicle during chemo.

The findings will offer hope to patients who suffer one of the most distressing side effects of cancer treatment.

Scalp cooling is being tested on breast cancer patients who lose their hair. Photo / Supplied
Scalp cooling is being tested on breast cancer patients who lose their hair. Photo / Supplied

Dr Talveen Purba, the lead author of the study, said their new treatment called CDK4/6 inhibitors doesn't damage hair follicles in the same way as traditional chemo.


"We found that CDK4/6 inhibitors can be used temporarily to halt cell division without promoting additional toxic effects in the hair follicle," he told The Sun.

"When we bathed organ-cultured human scalp hair follicles in CDK4/6 inhibitors, the hair follicles were much less susceptible to the damaging effects of taxanes."

His team hopes the findings will help pave the way for other topical medications that could briefly suspend cell division in the scalp hair follicles of patients having chemo.

He did acknowledge however how much more research is needed to make this a reality for cancer patients.

"We're only now scratching the surface of how they damage the human hair follicle," he told The Sun.

"We need time to further develop approaches like this to not only prevent hair loss, but promote hair follicle regeneration in patients who have already lost their hair due to chemotherapy."

In 2017 researchers announced a cooling cap worn during chemotherapy could spare thousands of women with breast cancer from losing their hair.

Scalp cooling systems - which use either a cold gel or a refrigerated pump system to lower the temperature of the head - have been available for some years for use during chemotherapy, but have never been widely used.


Experts believe they could widely reduce the risk of hair loss.

The Breast Cancer Foundation NZ is currently funding a pilot of a scalp cooling machine that will help determine the number of women who keep more than half their hair and don't require a wig after chemotherapy.