New Cancer Drugs Turn Patients’ Gray Hair Dark Again

Cancer therapy is known to cause patients’ hair to fall off, but a few new cancer drugs apparently have a completely different side effect – they restore pigment in older people’s gray hair.

Spanish researchers testing three new cancer drugs – Keytruda, Opdivo and Tecentriq – for negative side-effects in cancer patients made a very surprising discovery. After using the drugs, 14 of the 52 patients involved in the study saw their gray hair go brown or black again. The findings were recently reported in a paper published in the JAMA medical journal.

Photo: JAMA Medical Journal

Dr. Noelia Rivera, a dermatologist at Autonomous University of Barcelona, said that when the first test subject reported the change in hair color, she and her colleagues thought it was just an isolated case. But then they checked other patients’ photos from before the treatment and noticed the same thing. In 13 cases, the patients’ hair had gone from gray or white to brown or black completely, while in one case the hair had gone black in patches.

The study also found that in all but one of the 14 cases, patients responded better to the treatment than other patients, which suggests that the restoration of pigment to the hair might be an indication that the drugs are workings. Doctors don’t yet have an explanation for the change in hair color, but are planning to study the side-effect better and see if the cases were a simple fluke.

Photo: JAMA Medical Journal

Interestingly, the drugs administered during this study had been previously associated with hair LOSING color in patients suffering from melanoma. The patients involved in this study, who got their old hair color back, were suffering from lung cancer.

Dr. Rivera warned people not to try these new cancer drugs just to combat the effects of aging on hair, as they also have other, much less pleasant side-effects. If the hair-color changing properties of the drugs are confirmed, a new treatment specifically for this purpose could be developed in the future.


Source: The Guardian/Associated Press

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