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Prevent Hair Loss with Tempol

Prevent Hair Loss with Tempol

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I saw the article on Tempol and alopecia and was wondered about the follow-up data on that study. I already had whole brain radiation at a high dose (3750cGy). I am wondering if researchers have found anything to help with regrowth in this type of case.

Answer

James M. Metz, MD, Editor-in-Chief of OncoLink and Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Tempol is a type of antioxidant (a substance that blocks DNA-damaging oxidation, thus preventing free radical formation and normal tissue injury). Radiation therapy is believed to fight cancer by oxidizing and destroying tumor DNA. Thus, Tempol is being actively investigated for its promising role as a radioprotector (substance that protects cells of the surrounding normal tissue from radiation damage). It has already been found to have many possible applications in cancer patients, and thus far appears to be very safe and well tolerated in humans.

We completed a phase II trial utilizing topical Tempol as a way to decrease or prevent hair loss caused by radiation to the head, and have documented good results. We will next be doing an expanded phase II study prior to moving towards a larger, multi-center, randomized Phase III trial. Tempol is also being studied as a topical agent for skin protection, as well as in the intravenous form to protect the salivary glands during mouth radiation for head and neck cancer. In terms of non-oncologic disciplines, Tempol is being evaluated for pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, hypertension, kidney protection and shock.

Ultimately, at this time, it is used to prevent hair loss caused by radiation to the head. As of yet, there is no product proven to help hair regrow faster under these conditions. There are numerous products that are marketed and claim to do this, but none have been studied in clinical settings with rigorous scientific standards.