Cancer patients who lose their hair due to chemotherapy will benefit from a major research project to improve the scalp cooling technology that combats hair loss.
The research is being undertaken by global scalp cooling manufacturing company Paxman Coolers, based at Fenay Bridge, in conjunction with the biology department of Huddersfield University.
The research is being led by researcher Omar Hussain, who has a background in the pharmacology of cancer treatment, which he will use towards his PhD.
Mr Hussain joined Paxman as a researcher on a joint government-sponsored Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the company and the university designed to establish the scientific basis of scalp cooling and its success rate with different drugs.
He was supervised by the university’s Dr Nik Georgopoulos and Dr Andrew Collett and he co-authored an article in the specialist journal Toxicology in Vitro on the findings of the project.
Paxman managing director Richard Paxman said the research represented an exciting development that will enable further improvements in the treatment and the technology.
He said: “When a patient comes to us and asks what the chances are of keeping their hair, at the moment we are very fair and say they are 50%. Now we want to take that up to 80% and we believe that greater understanding of the scientific mechanisms will allow us to do that.”
Mr Hussain, who has presented his research at several international conferences in tandem with a Paxman team, described how he replicated the effect of scalp cooling in laboratory conditions.
Cells were taken from hair follicles and subjected to a simulation of chemotherapy treatment. Experiments were conducted with different levels of temperature, from 37deg C – the normal temperature of the human body – and then lowered. As the temperatures fell, cell survival increased.
“Compared with 37deg there are huge differences,” he said. “At low temperatures, cells are being rescued and maintained well and this promotes the cooling effect.”
Mr Hussain said that the optimum temperature for scalp cooling is yet to be finalised, although it is below 22deg C.
After extensive testing and research, Paxman Coolers plans to launch a fourth generation scalp cooler in 2016.
Mr Paxman said that acceptance of scalp cooling technology was initially slow during the early years of development, but sales have grown by at least 20% a year for the past five years and are expected to accelerate further. Export business is especially strong.
The first scalp cooling firm was developed by Paxman Coolers chairman Glenn Paxman and his brother Neil after Glenn’s wife Sue lost her hair during chemotherapy.
The Paxmans drew on their expertise built up through family business Brewfitt, which supplies drinKs dispense and cooling equipment.
The scalp cooling device helped cancer patients retain their hair during chemotherapy by restricting the flow of blood – and the chemicals used in the treatment – to the scalp and hair follicles.